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Hospitals full, staff exhausted as COVID-19 surges in Morgan County

Over the last week, 47% of people in Morgan County who were tested for COVID-19 were positive.

MORGAN COUNTY, Alabama — Thanksgiving was less than a week ago, and Morgan County is already feeling the impact.

Over the last week, 47% of people who were tested for COVID-19 were positive. This positivity rate is leaving ICU beds full and hospital staff exhausted.

Health officials in Morgan County expected a spike in COVID-19 cases after Thanksgiving, but they didn't expect to see it this quickly.

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Mayor Tab Bowling says he has recently noticed many people in the county not wearing masks or social distancing. Now, hospitals are paying the price.

Decatur Morgan Hospital President, Kelli Powers, said, "That's the major thing. It is having enough staff to take care of these patients, and so again I think I share with y'all every week how tired the doctors, the staff, you know, everybody is, the nurses taking care of patients."

As of Monday, November 30, 60 COVID-19 patients are in the Decatur Morgan Hospital system. Nine more are persons under investigation.

Powers explained there are a total of 69 patients that they are treating as COVID positive because the presumptive cases are treated as positive until they test negative.

Eight COVID patients are in the ICU. Three of them are on a ventilator.

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Alabama Department of Public Health Infectious Disease Nurse, Toni Richie, said, "There are people walking around two days before they have symptoms and then they become symptomatic. We've already had two calls unfortunately this morning of people who have called in and said, oh, I started having symptoms Friday and I went to my family on Thursday and that's how it happens."

Despite the new coronavirus unit at the hospital's Parkway Campus, they have had to resort to using the ER, causing longer wait times for the emergency room.

The COVID unit at the Parkway Campus was opened specifically to bring more beds to the area.

Powers said, "We were holding five PUIs in the ER as well, so holding nine ER patients this morning waiting on beds, so it is definitely up a lot."

They are continuing to train staff to get more beds for the Parkway COVID Unit.

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The Decatur Morgan Hospital has gotten a freezer to hold COVID-19 vaccines. They hope to vaccinate health care workers and first responders by the end of the year.

Health leaders say the holidays can already be a hard time for many people, even without being isolated or quarantined. They encourage you to reach out and check in on your friends and neighbors.

WATCH: How would COVID-19 vaccines be distributed?

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