Kelli Powers

Powers

Decatur Morgan Hospital's 16 COVID patients in the ICU on Monday, all on ventilators, had an average age of 56. None had been vaccinated, according to the hospital's president.

It's a continuation of the trend seen statewide. The latest surge of COVID-19 cases over the last month has more younger people dealing with severe illness.

Athens-Limestone had six COVID patients in intensive care Monday, including three on ventilators, and it is also seeing younger patients. 

Decatur Morgan Hospital had 51 COVID patients Monday plus one patient presumed to be infected. 

“We have several patients waiting on ICU beds,” said Decatur Morgan Hospital President Kelli Powers. “We have no ICU beds and we have not had any for a while.”

Powers said she is concerned about the lack of ICU beds when there are people seeking help from the hospital with non-COVID issues.

“We still have people walking in with heart attacks, strokes, other various things they need to be in ICU for,” Powers said. “But we don’t have any beds for them.”

Judy Smith, administrator of the Northern District of the Alabama Department of Public Health, attributes the low average age of COVID patients in the ICU to lower vaccination rates in age groups below 65. 

“It’s been a slow crawl to get additional vaccines for people,” Smith said. “Morgan County’s vaccination rate currently is under 39% of eligible people.”

Smith said the vaccination rate among Morgan County residents has increased slightly during the recent wave of COVID.

“It needs to be better,” Smith said.

At Athens-Limestone Hospital, nurse manager Donna Abernathy said several COVID patients were younger than 65.

“We’ve got some 50-year-olds, we’ve got a 40- and 47-year-old and a few in their 60s. I’d say the majority would be in their 50s,” Abernathy said. “That’s a lot younger than what we were seeing before" the latest surge in COVID, which health experts say has been driven by the delta variant. 

Abernathy said Athens-Limestone had 19 COVID patients including the six in ICU on Monday. Fifteen of the 19 patients in the hospital who have COVID are not vaccinated, she said.

“This data is showing me that the vaccines that are available are working,” Abernathy said. “We saw the numbers really going down recently and the vaccines were slowing it down. It’s basically to the point of getting COVID or getting vaccinated.”

The combined COVID death toll in Morgan, Lawrence and Limestone counties climbed by 17 to 648 in the week ending Monday, according to ADPH data. Statewide, COVID deaths increased by 446 to 14,025 over the week.

ADPH on Monday said it takes an average of about 25 days before it reports COVID deaths because the agency must await a death certificate and review medical files to confirm the virus was the cause of the death.

Statewide, according to the Alabama Hospital Association, there were 1,149 hospitalized COVID patients on Monday, including 23 children and five pregnant women. 

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—wesley.tomlinson@decaturdaily.com or 256-340-2438. 

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