The state of Alabama says it has surpassed its net total for available ICU beds as the more contagious delta variant strain of COVID-19 continues to spread.
The Alabama Department of Public Health and the Alabama Hospital Association reported Wednesday night that there were "negative 29" intensive care unit beds available in hospitals statewide.
According to the Montgomery Advertiser, the "negative 29" figure represents the net total of reported ICU patients in the state compared to the number of staffed ICU beds.
While the figure does not necessarily mean that every single hospital in the state has a full ICU, it represents the considerable strain the state's health care system is under amid the latest spike in COVID-19 cases.
"We've never been here before. We are in truly now in uncharted territory in terms of our ICU bed capacity," Alabama Hospital Association President Dr. Don Williamson told WFSA-TV in Montgomery on Wednesday.
The Advertiser reports that some hospitals in the state are likely housing more ICU patients than they have the capacity for by shifting emergency room space into ICU beds.
Across the state, Alabama reported 2,723 COVID-19 hospitalizations — a number that has been rising.
"Yesterday was the worst until today," Williamson told the Advertiser.
U.S. health officials have maintained that the current spike in COVID-19 cases is largely avoidable, as vaccines remain highly effective in preventing hospitalizations and death from the delta variant. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that 99.99% of those who have been vaccinated have avoided a severe or deadly COVID-19 infection.
According to Bloomberg, Alabama has one of the lowest vaccination rates of any state in the U.S., having distributed enough vaccines to only cover about 40% of its population. Mississippi is the only state who has distributed fewer vaccine doses per capita.