Economic Snapshot Overview by Dr. Reid Cummings - January 2021

Posted on January 27, 2021 by Dr. Reid Cummings
Dr. Reid Cummings

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Greetings, and welcome to the January 2021 Mobile Bay Economic Snapshot.

Readers of recent Snapshot issues will recall our focus centered on COVID-19’s multiple impacts on our regional economy: residential and commercial real estate markets, airports, transportation, mortgage lending, and economic development. With late December and early January news of increased COVID-19 cases placing increased pressures on U.S. hospitals, we wondered about the impacts on our regional hospitals.

To aid our investigation, this month we accessed U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) data. The CDC releases weekly data drawing on two U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) data sources. The first is HHS TeleTracking, conducted for the Department through a private vendor with a contract to supply COVID-related data nationwide. The second is HHS Protect, which the Department compiles by aggregating COVID-related data reported directly by state and county health departments on behalf of their respective hospital and healthcare facilities.

When we first looked at the data, we noticed that in many instances actual ICU bed occupancies exceeded ICU bed capacities. Our reaction was that to manage the overflow, perhaps hospitals added temporary ICU beds elsewhere within their facilities. To be sure, we contacted Dr. John Marymount, Dean of USA’s College of Medicine and Vice-President of Medical Affairs, and Dr. Alan Whaley, USA Health’s Chief Operating Officer and Associate Vice President for Medical Affairs. Both confirmed hospitals make temporary adjustments when needed.

We drew a polygon made up of the forty counties in southwest Alabama, southeast Mississippi, and the western Florida Panhandle located within a 3-hour drive of the Mobile Bay area. We categorized the weekly CDC data from the middle of last summer to late January 2021 by county. We then developed our newest dashboards to illustrate answers to three crucial questions:

  1. How full are the hospitals? Our first dashboard shows total county-wide hospital bed capacity and corresponding occupancy rates.
  2. How full are the ICUs? Our second dashboard shows total county-wide hospital ICU bed capacity and corresponding occupancy rates. A ratio of more than 100% means hospitals had greater ICU demand than capacity, and therefore, had to add temporary ICU beds.
  3. How has COVID-19 affected ICUs? Our third dashboard shows the total county-wide percentage of hospitalized COVID-19 patients requiring ICU care, and when overall ICU demand exceeded capacity, the total county-wide number of temporary ICU beds added.

The dashboards show that impacts on regional hospitals vary from county to county, and from week to week, and in some cases, COVID-19 has pushed ICU capacities beyond their limits. Yet regardless of surges and capacity constraints, the data show that our regional hospital professionals and administrators have risen consistently to meet all challenges.

We are grateful for everyone on the frontlines of the pandemic and their continued devotion to the medical needs of our community. Until next time, from everyone at the Center, we wish you and yours all the best.

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