Alabama hospitals are out of ICU beds, Montgomery's mayor says. That 'dire' situation could crop up across rural America as states reopen.
... Montgomery hospitals are "down to just a handful of ICU beds," Mayor Steven Reed told Business Insider on Thursday. Many of the incoming patients are from surrounding rural counties which don't have ICUs.
Unable to take in new patients who are in need of immediate attention, Montgomery hospitals are transferring them 90 miles away to Birmingham, Reed said. It's the first time they've had to make such transfers since the pandemic began.
"That's very serious," Reed said in a Wednesday press conference. "Right now, if you're from Montgomery, and you need an ICU bed, you're in trouble. If you're from Central Alabama, and you need an ICU bed, you may not be able to get one because our health care system has been maxed out."
On Thursday, Gov. Kay Ivey announced that Alabama would allow theaters, bowling alleys, childcare facilities, and summer camps to reopen.
Other small cities and towns surrounded by rural counties could soon face similar influxes of coronavirus patients, as businesses reopen and new outbreaks spread through remote areas with little critical care capacity.
"[States] are starting to think about reopening at the very same time that this crisis is spreading across rural places," Carrie Henning-Smith, Deputy Director of the University of Minnesota Rural Health Research Center, told Business Insider in early May. "Given the fact that we're seeing these high increases, these fast increases, in rural areas, I worry about what that means for rural facilities and their ability to keep up and keep up safely."
... In Alabama, daily hospitalizations from COVID-19 appeared to plateau in mid-April, but have since been on the rise.
The state of Alabama reported 13,938 cases of COVID-19 as of Saturday, with more than 4,200 of them being identified in the last 14 days. Montgomery County has 1,126 cases — nearly half of them in the last 14 days — and more than 1,500 hospitalizations.
"I don't come before you every day to talk about how dreary the circumstances are, but I come before you this day to tell you that the circumstances are certainly dire," Reed said Wednesday. "We have to make sure that we don't get into a hole that we cannot get ourselves out of."
He pleaded with citizens to continue practicing social distancing and to stay home as often as possible.
"While I know people are ready to enjoy this Memorial Day weekend and are fatigued by all of this, I just want to reiterate: We are not there yet," Reed said. "We are still in a place were we could go either way, and we don't want to slip and fall off a cliff."