With just one ICU bed available, Montgomery, Alabama, is sending sick patients to Birmingham

Montgomery Mayor Steven Reed said on Wednesday that of the four regional hospitals, one is short three ICU beds, two have no ICU beds, and one has just one bed.

“Right now, if you are from Montgomery, and you need an ICU bed, you are in trouble,” Reed said at a press conference. “If you’re from central Alabama, and you need an ICU bed, you may not be able to get one.”

The health care system is the state’s capital is “maxed out,” Reed said.

Alabama had 13,288 confirmed Covid-19 cases as of Thursday afternoon, according to Johns Hopkins University data. At least 528 people have died. That’s 2,358 more cases than reported the same time last week. At that time, 450 deaths had been reported.

Montgomery County has more than 1,000 cases and 28 people have died, according to the state health department’s data.

Al.com reported Wednesday that coronavirus cases have more than doubled since May 4 in the four counties that make up metropolitan Montgomery.

Reed told CNN his hope in using such stark terms was to get the attention of the public.

“This is a serious matter and we have to maintain our practices even as many people are relaxing restrictions and the economy is opening back up,” Reed said in a phone interview.

“We need to take more individual responsibility in how we go about our daily lives. In this community we are not in a safe place given the numbers we are seeing.”

Birmingham cases rising

In Birmingham, the most populous city in Alabama, coronavirus cases are also increasing sharply.

Jefferson County, where Birmingham is located, had 1,453 confirmed cases as of Thursday, according to the state’s health department data — which is a jump of 35% from the 1,075 cases reported two weeks ago. The county has had 85 deaths attributed to Covid-19.

Jefferson, Montgomery and Mobile counties are gaining attention as possible Covid-19 hotspots in the state, CNN affiliate WBRC reported. Those three had the highest numbers in the state as of Wednesday night, WBRC said.

Part of the increase can be attributed to increased testing, State Health Officer Dr. Karen Landers said, according to WBRC.

Reed said he was certain the shortage of ICU beds was directly related to the state loosening restrictions.

“That’s definitely a part of opening up too soon and not adhering to CDC guidelines,” Reed said.

Alabama’s reopening

Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey’s stay-at-home order didn’t go into effect until April 4, and expired at the end of that month. Ivey replaced it with an order that eased restrictions.

As of May 11, restaurants and bars were allowed to serve customers on site, gyms and athletic facilities, hair and nail salons and barber shops were allowed to open. Groups of any size are allowed, as long as the 6 feet distance guidance is followed.

Ivey announced more reopenings Thursday, including entertainment venues, childcare facilities and summer camps. Schools are allowed to open next month.

Many patients in Montgomery area hospitals are not from the city, but rather from rural areas where the health care systems cannot meet the needs of the community, Reed said.

“We don’t want to lose anyone, any life, because we don’t have the resources to treat them in this community,” Reed said. “I want us to really think about the seriousness of that because none of us know who will need that ICU bed today, and who may need that this evening, tomorrow, or this extended Memorial Day weekend.”

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