East Alabama Medical Center provides update on COVID-19
While the number of new COVID-19 cases in Lee County has risen rather sharply over the past two weeks, the number of patients with COVID-19 who are hospitalized at EAMC or EAMC-Lanier has remained very steady. Ricardo Maldonado, M.D., EAMC’s Infectious Diseases specialist, explains how that is possible. “Previously, I mentioned that when we re-open the economy, it would be ideal if the young and healthy would do it first,” states Maldonado. “That’s so that we avoid a sharp increase in hospitalizations of very sick patients that can often lead to respiratory failure and ICU usage.” Dr. Maldonado says that he believes that’s what is occurring and that it is not altogether bad. “If some of the young and healthy individuals can have the virus and recover without passing it on to people requiring hospitalization, then that actually helps our community build immunity to it—it’s a process called herd immunity.”
However, having young and healthy walking around with COVID-19 concerns Dr. Maldonado as well. “If they are walking around without masks and thinking they don’t have COVID-19, then it puts the vulnerable population at risk,” Dr. Maldonado says. “This is especially true in grocery stores which is a place that all age groups have to visit. The young and healthy—and really all age groups—need to understand that wearing a mask says ‘I care about protecting those at risk’ and not wearing one says just the opposite.”
Dr. Maldonado fully expects that some of the new cases being recorded right now will ultimately lead to an increase in hospitalizations. “It is just inevitable,” he says. “The more cases we see in the younger population, it will eventually spill over to the older, at-risk population. Plus, in the past couple of weeks, we are seeing healthier adults without comorbidities getting sick with COVID-19 and being admitted to EAMC, some of them quite sick. I expect most of them to respond to medical therapy, but it is very telling that they got sick enough to be hospitalized.”
A lot has been made about the number of new COVID-19 cases being related to increased testing volumes. While that is true, the percentage of confirmed cases has not dropped dramatically. For example, during the week of April 12-18, a total of 9,064 people were tested statewide and 12.6% of them were positive. The most recent week available from the Alabama Department of Public Health (ADPH) shows that 31,948 people were tested (the most in Alabama in one week so far) and 10.2% of them were positive. Here are some other testing statistics, for EAMC, Auburn University Medical Clinic, and for Lee and Chambers counties.
EAMC TESTING (per EAMC records)*
Total Tested: 6,438
Positive: 862 (13.4% of total tested)
*Testing performed by EAMC. Consists of 57 cities/towns as cases are linked to the patient’s home county.
AUBURN UNIVERSITY MEDICAL CLINIC TESTING
Last week, the Auburn University Medical Clinic performed 760 tests, with 81 of them being positive (a 10.6% positive rate). The AU Medical Clinic is receiving about 250 calls a day and is booked for testing through Friday. The vast majority of the calls and testing are related to the caller being exposed to someone who has tested positive for COVID-19.
LEE COUNTY TESTING (per ADPH website)
Total Tested: 10,078
Positive: 900 (plus 17 not yet confirmed by ADPH)
Recorded 24 or more new cases in 6 of the past 9 days.
CHAMBERS COUNTY TESTING (per ADPH website)
Total Tested: 2,693
Positive: 520 (plus 14 not yet confirmed by ADPH)
Recorded fewer than 10 new cases in 6 of the past 9 days.
For confirmed Alabama COVID-19 cases by county, please visit this ADPH link: https://covid19.alabama.gov/#live-updates