Decatur Morgan Hospital CEO Kelli Powers

Powers

Sixty-eight Decatur Morgan Hospital employees are in quarantine today, according to the hospital's CEO, up from 42 a week ago.

Kelli Powers said the staff shortages are forcing Decatur Morgan Hospital and the rest of the Huntsville Hospital Health System to consider halting all elective surgeries. She said that of the 68 staff who are in quarantine, 27 have tested positive for COVID-19 and the remainder are either awaiting test results or were exposed to someone who tested positive.

"We're really close to stopping elective surgeries again. We are discussing that internally," she said. "It is negatively impacting us, on top of the staff we have being so tired."

Judy Smith, administrator of the Alabama Department of Public Health Northern District, said health care workers will be the first to receive vaccines when they become available.

"The current federal plans and federal guidelines are that the vaccine will be given, to start off with, to health care providers," Smith said, hopefully by the end of this year. "Then later, probably in the spring or maybe in the summer, the vaccine will become progressively available for other folks."

As of today, the Decatur hospital has 42 confirmed or presumed COVID-19 patients. Five are in ICU, including four on ventilators. Only one of 19 ICU beds is available, Powers said.

"The thing we don't talk about a lot is we only have so many ventilators, so many ICU beds and so much medication," Powers said, adding that the hospital had to loan one ventilator to Cullman Regional Medical Center to help it cope with a spike in cases.

She said the hospital is also seeing an uptick of patients with mental problems, especially adolescents and teenagers.

"We are seeing a lot of mental health issues — depression, suicidal events and things like that — and I want to make sure that everybody takes a second to check on the teenage population, college kids especially," Powers said in a news conference. "Check on their mental health status. ... We know children can be resilient, but the mental health issue is real."

The Alabama Department of Public Health today reported 66 new COVID-19 cases in Morgan County. Over the last week, the county has averaged 77 new cases per day — the highest seven-day average for the county since the pandemic began.

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eric@decaturdaily.com or 256-340-2435. Twitter @DD_Fleischauer.

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