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Top Alabama hospital official worries about COVID surge in the state

"We are now seeing an absolute explosion of cases and an explosion of hospitalizations," said Don Williamson, Alabama Hospital Association president.

Posted: Jul 23, 2021 7:03 PM

A top hospital official telling WAAY 31 on Friday, the sudden and dramatic increase of COVID cases and hospitalizations in our state is frightening. 

"We are now seeing an absolute explosion of cases and an explosion of hospitalizations," said Dr. Don Williamson, Alabama Hospital Association president.

Williamson said the Delta variant is a "game changer" and is far more contagious than previous variants. 

He believes we are at the point that if you are unvaccinated, then you are most certainly going to come in contact with the virus. 

Williamson said in a two-week period the state has more than doubled the number of people hospitalized for coronavirus. Right now, he believes we are at the start of another surge in COVID cases and hospitalizations. 

Williamson said hospitals are seeing more younger people who you wouldn't think would need to be in the ICU are now very sick with the virus.

The fear is that more young people will die from coronavirus. 

"If you are unvaccinated, you are now putting your life at risk, you're putting your family's life at risk. So it's just not worth it and the problem is, there's no obvious way to stop this unless people get vaccinated," said Williamson. 

Williamson said a majority of the people being hospitalized are unvaccinated. He said we could stop this possible surge, if people in our community got the vaccine.

Williamson said hospital staffs are talking about how they can take care of a possible explosion of people coming to the hospital with coronavirus. 

Those conversations include: visitation policies, how COVID units will be staffed and if they need to scale back elective surgeries and when that will be. 

Williamson said you could see a longer wait time in the emergency room if there is a surge in COVID in-patients. 

He also said if hospitals get full again, then it's harder to transfer patients who need it. 

Right now, he doesn't believe there will be state mandates like we have seen in the past, but decisions will be made by hospitals depending on staff and the community's COVID situation.

"So is it possible, yes, it's certainly possible. We are not there yet, but I have to say, the last week of this, has absolutely amazed me in terms of the speed in which we are seeing this virus spread and the increases we are seeing," said Williamson.

It's not the supplies that hospital officials are worried about, it's staff. 

Williamson told me hospitals in the state worked hard to make sure they have supplies like PPE. 

They also have plenty of ventilators and ICU beds. 

He said the problem is if hospitals will have enough staff to meet demand. 

There was already a shortage of nurses before the pandemic even began. 

"We lost some nurses because COVID literally drove some of them out of the profession. They chose to do something other than health care.

"We then lost additional health care workers through traveling nurses. Because of the shortage in other places, nurses took traveling jobs so they could get paid more. So that depleted our resources," said Williamson.

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