Hospitals in the Shoals hit coronavirus records this week

More than 100 people are hospitalized in the Shoals with the virus. Exact numbers can change because it's a fluid situation, according to hospital officials.

Posted: Dec 31, 2020 3:04 PM
Updated: Dec 31, 2020 6:55 PM

Almost 120 people are hospitalized in the Shoals' two biggest hospitals, Helen Keller and the North Alabama Medical Center.

Helen Keller Hospital President, Kyle Buchanan, said the scary thing about this increase is that it isn't the Christmas or New Year's increase they're planning for. All hospitals are feeling the strain of this virus more than ever.

"We've averaged over 50 last week. This is the first week that we've averaged at that level of 50+, and there are several times this week, we've been as high as 58, which is a record for us," said Buchanan.

Helen Keller Hospital isn't the only one feeling the strain. As of Wednesday, the North Alabama Medical Center said it had more than 65 coronavirus patients. Buchanan said it's scary to reach these records before the other holiday spikes.

"In our corner of the state in Lauderdale, Colbert and Franklin Counties, we have record numbers of community positives, so we're seeing 1,000 and last week, over 1,000 new COVID-positive patients receiving their test results," said Buchanan.

With more people testing positive, Buchanan said that means more people are being hospitalized with the virus. Right now, Helen Keller Hospital is limiting elective surgeries based on how many beds they have available. He said if this keeps up, we could see what's happened in other states throughout the pandemic.

"Outside of our state, we've had several lessons learned from other states that got overwhelmed. You will have entire counties or metro areas in which they can no longer accept patients and patients are being shipped across state lines, because in that local community, there is no health care for COVID or non-COVID patients," said Buchanan.

Buchanan said the community must do everything it can to make sure this isn't our future.

"We've seen within our state, several transfer requests from 4 or 5 hours from the Shoals area to say, 'hey, we're in South Alabama. We no longer have any beds. Can Helen Keller Hospital take this normal pneumonia that we would otherwise be comfortable taking, but we just don't have the space?' We don't want that here. Really, the ball is in our court as a community to make sure that doesn't happen anywhere in North Alabama, but especially the Shoals. We can choose to do it or we can walk directly into the path in which we put ourselves in that type of risk," said Buchanan.

Buchanan said science doesn't lie and they're confident the uptick in community spread is coming from more and more people gathering for the holidays and spending more time indoors because it's cold and people are letting their guards down.

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