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"Massive widespread transmission in our community": Hospital doctors warn as COVID-19 hospitalizations, cases rise
‘Widespread transmission’

"Massive widespread transmission in our community": Hospital doctors warn as COVID-19 hospitalizations, cases rise

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East Alabama Medical Center doctors are urging the community to stay home as the hospital neared its peak number of COVID-19 cases since the pandemic hit Lee County.

“If hospitals get overwhelmed again, another shelter-in-place order could come along with its devastation on the economy and mental health,” Dr. Ricardo Maldonado, EAMC’s infectious disease specialist, said. “It is up to the public to help stop this upward trend in cases.”

EAMC saw 41 hospitalized COVID-19 patients between its EAMC and EAMC-Lanier campuses on Sunday, the highest number the hospital system has seen in weeks. The peak of EAMC’s COVID-19 hospitalizations was 54 positive cases on April 11, according to hospital data.

There were 39 COVID-19 patients hospitalized Monday.

Maldonado said hospital staff is beginning to see the distress of what they saw at the hospital’s peak.

“Now, the heroes that our community supported earlier this year are once again beginning to feel the distress of what we saw in early April,” he said.

“Right now, we have massive widespread transmission in our community, unlike what we saw in April, which was made up of smaller local outbreaks in places like churches.”

Lee County is currently listed as a high risk COVID-19 transmission county by the Alabama Department of Public Health. Chambers County is listed as a moderate risk COVID-19 transmission county.

The risk level is based on the 14-day trend of COVID-19 cases in the county, according to ADPH.

There were 642 confirmed COVID-19 cases in Chambers County, 1,411 in Lee County, 199 in Macon County, 565 in Russell County and 605 in Tallapoosa County as of Monday night, according to ADPH.

There were a total of 27 COVID-19 deaths in Chambers County, 37 in Lee County, nine in Macon County and 69 in Tallapoosa County.

There were 44,375 confirmed cases and 984 virus-related deaths in Alabama as of Monday night, according to ADPH.

Doctors warn

Among those hospitalized at EAMC are people considered to be healthy and in a younger age group.

“COVID-19 cases are going up, and we are now seeing patients who are completely healthy and in their early 30s sick enough to be in the ICU,” Maldonado said. “We even have patients in their 20s that are now hospitalized with COVID-19.”

EAMC’s chief of staff, Dr. Michael Roberts, said that despite people being tired of all the COVID-19 restrictions, now is not the time to relax.

“We are tired of staying 6 feet away from people we love,” Roberts said.

“We have postponed vacations, and we have missed weddings, funerals and graduations. We are tired of putting on masks when we are in public.

“For some, it is because they are uncomfortable, and for others, masks seem to have become a political issue.

“As the current graph reveals, now is not the time to let our guard down.”

Maldonado added that it is crucial to wear a mask in public spaces in order to help prevent the spread of the virus.

“We all dislike wearing masks in this weather, and we all want to get back to business and back to normal,” he said. “However, not wearing a face mask inside a public building is simply irresponsible and selfish. I feel your pain as I also have family, friends and activities that I miss, but doing these few things to help stop the spread is a small price to pay to avoid another shelter-in-place order.”

EAMC restrictions

EAMC is keeping its visitor restrictions in place at both EAMC and EAMC-Lanier due to the continued increase of COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations.

The hospital also stresses that it is doing everything it can to keep its employees and patients safe from the virus.

“EAMC and EAMC-Lanier both have rigorous disinfection processes, daily staff and physician screening, and other extreme measures in place to keep our patients and staff safe as we continue our routine services and manage the uptick in hospitalizations,” the hospital said in a statement.

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