Alabama has run out of ICU beds amid a surge in new COVID-19 cases largely driven by the delta variant. Dr. Don Williamson, president of the Alabama Hospital Association, told a local news outlet that as of Tuesday there were 1,568 ICU patients, but only 1,557 beds.
The state has over 2,720 patients currently hospitalized due to COVID-19, mimicking numbers last seen during a January peak. In June, the state had recorded a low of around 170.
"We’ve never been here before," Williamson told WSFA. "We are in truly now in uncharted territory in terms of our ICU bed capacity."
Williamson said in some areas of the state, hospitals are being forced to transfer ICU patients to other departments, meaning ICU care is taking up space needed for other treatment areas. Alabama has seen a total of 641,386 COVID-19 cases since the pandemic began, with the entire state currently experiencing high levels of community transmission.
Alabama’s vaccination efforts peaked in April and began a steady decrease over the following months, recently beginning to tick up again to a 7-day average of around 12,500 doses administered daily. The state and neighboring Mississippi have the lowest vaccination rates in the country, with officials pointing to low jab uptake as a factor for increasing hospitalizations.
On Wednesday, Mississippi opened up its second field hospital, with this one situated on the University of Mississippi Medical Center campus. The first opened less than a week ago.
"It’s unbelievable that we’re doing this again within what? 6 days? Heartbreaking," Marc Rolph, University of Mississippi Medical Center spokesperson, told the Associated Press.
In just weeks, Mississippi saw the number of hospitalized patients double, quickly causing hospitals to become overrun again.
"We as a state, as a collective, have failed to respond in a unified way to a common threat, we have failed to use the tools that we have to protect ourselves," LouAnn Woodward, medical center head, told the news outlet.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.