‘Intensely frustrated,’ Alabama’s top health officer says as morgue trailers deployed, hospitals packed

THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

Alabama’s state health officer, Dr. Scott Harris

Alabama could be close to a breaking point when it comes to dealing with the surge of COVID patients, according to the state’s top health officer.

In a briefing today, Dr. Scott Harris said he was “intensely frustrated,” with the lack of vaccinations and masking to prevent the spread of coronavirus even as two morgue trailers are being sent to Mobile and Baldwin counties due to a growing number of deaths and Alabama has more ICU patients than it has beds.

“We need to do what it takes to not continue this situation. I don’t know how much longer we’re going to be able to do this,” Harris said. “So much of what we’re seeing is preventable.”

Alabama’s positivity rate for COVID tests is at 23%, among the highest in the nation. As of yesterday, there were 2,879 COVID patients hospitalized in the state, including 45 pediatric patients.

Five of the pediatric patients are on ventilators, Harris said. ICU bed capacity continues to be in the negative, with 40 more COVID patients than available staffed ICU beds.

Vaccinations have picked up in the state but Alabama continues to have the lowest vaccination rate in the country at 37%, according to the CDC as of Friday.

Deaths – a lagging indicator that follows surges in COVID cases and hospitalizations – continue to increase with 50 reported to ADPH yesterday. As a result, ADPH said it has sent two of its four mobile morgue trailers to hard-hit Mobile and Baldwin counties.

“It’s the first time during the pandemic we’ve had to activate (the trailers,”) Harris said, adding the deployments came at the request of the coroner. “There was no room to put the bodies.”

Harris said the best thing people could do would be to get vaccinated and wear a mask.

“So much of what we’re seeing is preventable,” Harris said. “We all have the ability to prevent it. Go get vaccinated and wear your mask.”