Alabama virus deaths rise as hospital group sounds warning

Alabama virus deaths rise as hospital group sounds warning

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — Alabama recorded its highest one-day death count from the new coronavirus Tuesday as the head of a state hospital group warned the state is on a dangerous path with intensive-care beds filling up and schools about to reopen.

The Bama Tracker website reported 40 new deaths, the most in a single day since the pandemic took hold in March. The illness has killed more than 1,130 people statewide, and more than 56,400 cases have been confirmed.

Dr. Karen Landers of the Alabama Department of Public Health said the one-day jump reflected deaths that were added to the state’s official count after a review of records and did not nessarily mean 40 people had died in one day.

“There may be a delay in reporting deaths due to receiving records for review and other factors,” she said.

The head of the Alabama Hospital Association, Dr. Donald Williamson, said the state was headed for a “potential disaster” with increasing daily case counts and a shrinking number of empty beds in hospitals.

More people later this week will likely start filling up hospitals because of activities linked to the July 4 holiday, Williamson said during a Facebook live video call with Sen. Doug Jones, and all but 13% of the state’s intensive care beds already are full.

The reopening of schools will likely put even more pressure on hospitals if people don’t get more serious about taking precautions like wearing face masks, Williamson said.

“I think we have a very, very short window to get this under control. I think if we don’t, we will reap the consequences of that both in hospitalizations, deaths and disruption to our routine lifestyle for a long time to come.”

A statewide mask requirement could help, Williamson said, and some school systems already are moving to require masks once classes resume.

Gov. Kay Ivey has called for people to show more personal responsibility in stopping the spread of the coronavirus but has not issued stricter rules.

In the Birmingham suburb of Hoover, which operates one of the state’s leading school systems, officials agreed Monday night to delay the start of school until Aug. 20 and require all workers and students in grade 3 and above to wear masks. Students in pre-kindergarten through grade 2 are encouraged to wear masks, the board said.

The Hoover City School system is delaying the start of school and putting out more of its plan to get students either back in the classroom or learning from home.

“I’m an educator and I can’t wait to start school but again I want to do that safely and so we’re making sure that we’re considering all levels of safety from social distancing to partitions to masks,” said Kathy Murphy, Hoover’s school superintendent.

In Montgomery, members of the State Board of Education met to discuss plans for reopening schools. The state superintendent, Eric Mackey, told members that 2.5 million face masks had been ordered for the start of the year and would be delivered to school systems by an overseas supplier on an alphabetical basis.