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COVID cases continue to rise in Chambers

The number of COVID-19 cases in Chambers County continues to rise, as shown in numbers from the Alabama Department of Public Health and in hospitalizations at East Alabama Medical Center.

EAMC set a new high in COVID-19 hospitalizations for a third straight day on Wednesday, with 74 patients being cared for between the Opelika campus and the Valley campus.

“This is an extremely difficult situation, and one that we’re afraid will only get worse in the next two weeks as an increase in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations are expected following Christmas gatherings,” said John Atkinson, EAMC spokesman. “As we have said before, the average length of stay for a patient with COVID-19 is about 10.5 days, and some stay several weeks. That compares to about four days for non-COVID patients, so it really becomes a problem with the availability of beds. We’re in a red census today with 263 total patients and many of our units are full. When you take into account that most Alabama hospitals are in the same situation, as are neighboring states, it truly becomes a public health emergency.”

Chambers County as a whole has seen 264 new cases over the last 14 days, according to ADPH. The numbers reflect a small spike after Christmas so far, with 45 cases reported on Dec. 28 and 37 on Dec. 29, but that spike is expected to grow.

“We knew we were at risk for having a third peak, and we all have been concerned about that, following the holidays, particularly Thanksgiving and now Christmas,” said Michael Roberts, chief of staff at EAMC, in a video sent to the media. “And that’s exactly what we’ve seen.”

Roberts said there are 263 total patients in the hospital at the Opelika campus— many for reasons other than COVID-19 — so EAMC is stretched thin for spacing and staffing.

“It’s reaching a level that’s not sustainable,” Roberts said. “The patients who were exposed to COVID-19 around Christmas Day are just starting to make their way into the hospital, so as those who became exposed become sicker and become hospitalized and progress to the point where they need critical care, our challenges related to staffing in the hospital and physical space become tougher. There’s only so much space in the hospital and only so much staff. We are afraid that with these rising number of cases, in addition to the normal volume that we typically see in January and February, that it may eventually become too much for us to handle.”

Chambers County has had 2,341 total cases since the start of the pandemic, according to ADPH. Some of those were confirmed, others are listed as “probable” COVID-19 cases by ADPH. Chambers has had 63 total COVID-19 related deaths, according to ADPH.

There were more than 2,800 Alabamians in the hospital statewide on Dec. 30 due to COVID-19, according to numbers from ADPH’s report.

Roberts asked that people avoid large gatherings and avoid grouping with people who are not within their own family. He also said people need to continue to wash their hands and wear a mask.

“This has unfortunately become a political, hot button topic,” Roberts said of wearing a mask. “I believe this is a simple, selfless act that you can do that may protect you individually and may protect your family from being infected with a potentially deadly virus.”