US Coronavirus: ‘There is no room to put these bodies,’ Alabama health official says, as Covid-19 deaths climb6 min read
In Alabama, one of the hardest-hit states in the latest surge, overall hospitalization numbers continue to climb, driving health officials to use mobile trailers to house bodies because Covid-19 deaths are soaring, state health officer Dr. Scott Harris said Friday.
The state activated two of its four refrigerated trailers for the first time since the pandemic began, Harris said, in Mobile and Baldwin counties this week.
“These are typically held in case of a mass casualty event for example, when a large number of bodies appear at one time. This is actually a situation that is happening in Alabama hospitals now,” Harris said.
“We have enough people dying … that there is no room to put these bodies,” he added. “We are really in a crisis situation. … I don’t know how much longer we’re going to be able to do this.”
Alabama reported 50 Covid-19 related deaths Thursday and saw “double digit numbers of deaths” in the past two to three weeks, Harris said.
At least 5,571 Alabama children tested positive for Covid-19 last week, Harris said Friday, noting that officials aren’t sure where the children contracted the virus. The state currently has a 23% Covid-19 positivity rate, among the highest in the nation, Harris said.
Alabama is seeing a surge in pediatric cases from last year, Harris explained. Of the 2,879 people hospitalized with Covid-19 on Thursday, 45 of them are children, with at least five of them on ventilators, Harris said.
Louisiana hospitals won’t evacuate ahead of Ida
“That’s very helpful going into this hurricane, especially since we know that the evacuation of our hospitals is not an option,” said Edwards.
Edwards told CNN’s Jim Acosta the hospitals have been stocking up on supplies and testing their generators ahead of the storm. FEMA has also brought in additional generators for the hospitals, he added.
“It’s going to be a real challenge and we’re likely to need some help with respect to our hospitals,” the governor said. “And then you have the people who may be injured as a result of the hurricane itself and so we need to make sure we have some capacity for them.”
Oxygen supplies running low in the South
As many hospitals across the country face a shortage of available beds and staff, there’s another concern in the South: a shortage of oxygen.
According to state health officials and hospital consultants, there are several hospitals across Florida, South Carolina, Texas and Louisiana that have experienced oxygen shortages, with some at risk of moving to their reserve supply or even running out of oxygen.
“As Covid has continued to evolve, we have continued to see Covid care best practices continue to evolve, and that in part has been the use of high-flow oxygen versus ventilators,” said Donna Cross, senior director of facilities and construction at Premier, a health care performance improvement company.
Cross told CNN that the spike in Covid-19 cases has caused more demand on the oxygen supply and hospitals cannot keep the pace.
Coronavirus transmission is high across the country
But only half of US states — plus Washington, DC, — have fully vaccinated at least 50% of their residents. Those states include California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, Washington state and Wisconsin.
The study stresses the importance of vaccinating eligible children and young people as schools return.
“Improving vaccination coverage and implementing Covid-19 prevention strategies are crucial to reduce Covid-19-associated morbidity and mortality among adolescents and to facilitate safer reopening of schools for in-person learning,” researchers wrote in the study.
Covid-19 is hitting school staff and students
Back-to-school season has been devastating to some states and districts that are seeing a distressing number of students contract the virus. Preventative measures such as quarantining are happening nationwide.
It’s unclear how many of those are new student quarantines, or students who have had to remain quarantined from the prior week. Schools report numbers, not the names, of those quarantined, according to the department of health.
A total of 11,766 students and 2,383 employees have tested positive for Covid-19 in Mississippi schools since the beginning of August when schools began, health officials said.
In California, the Los Angeles Unified School District reported 2,847 active Covid-19 cases among students and staff across all as of Friday evening, according to the district’s dashboard. The district said that as of Tuesday, 3,000 students and 500 employees were required to isolate at home while 3,500 students and 500 employees had to quarantine at home.
The second largest district in the country enacted some of the strongest mitigation measures throughout its more than 1,000 schools. But officials remain on guard about the spread.
“We anticipate an upward trend in outbreaks as our schools have reopened, but we’re continuing to work hard to prevent, investigate and manage them as they happen,” Los Angeles County Public Health Director Dr. Barbara Ferrer said during a weekly briefing on Thursday.
Health care resources are stretched thin for non-Covid-19 patients
As increases in Covid-19 cases persist, medical attention for other health needs is being curtailed.
Three OhioHealth hospitals decided to temporarily pause elective surgeries that require an overnight stay due to an influx of Covid-19 hospitalizations, spokesperson Colin Yoder told CNN in a statement Friday. The move, effective Monday, frees hospital capacity and staff, he explained.
“Due to the fluid nature of this fourth surge, we will continually monitor capacity and pause or resume elective surgeries with an overnight stay as needed,” Yoder said.
The treatment Actemra was granted emergency use authorization by the US Food and Drug Administration in June to treat those with Covid-19. The medication reduces inflammation that can make patients sicker. It is regularly used for those with rheumatoid arthritis, yet Genentech, the company that makes Actemra, doesn’t have enough for everyone who needs it.
On Thursday, Genentech told customers it’s “working as urgently as possible to expedite replenishments and increase manufacturing capacity and supply wherever possible.”
The company said the medicine should be available for distribution starting Monday, but “given continued tight supply, Genentech anticipates additional intermittent periods of stockouts in the months ahead if the pandemic continues at the current pace.”
CNN’s Melissa Alonso, Virginia Langmaid, Mallory Simon, Kristen Holmes, Jen Christensen, Jennifer Henderson and Alta Spells contributed to this report.