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Alabama man dies after 43 hospitals denied him because of COVID-19

On Sept. 1, Ray DeMonia, 73, died because of a cardiac event in an intensive care unit in Meridian, Mississippi. DeMonia was turned away from 43 hospitals, none of which had ICU beds available due to COVID-19 patients occupying hospitals across the United States. 

In August 2021, DeMonia suffered a cardiac emergency in Cullman, Alabama, his hometown. According to DeMonia’s obituary, Certified Residential Management Company (CRMC) emergency staff contacted 43 hospitals in three different states for a cardiac ICU bed before locating one in Meridian, Mississippi. 

Jenifer Malone, Cullman Regional Medical Center spokesperson, said DeMonia was a patient there but needed medical assistance they could not provide. The hospital transferred him to Rush Foundation Hospital in Meridian, Mississippi., about 200 miles away. 

Mathew Daley, a doctor with  the CDC Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, said the hospitals at  full capacity has to do with the vaccination rates. 

“This to me seems to be a strong indication that the current epidemiologic curve that we’re seeing is really a reflection of failure to vaccinate, not vaccine failure,” Daley said. 

His family is advocating for the COVID-19 vaccination as the virus continues to spread. The family said they hope to free up resources for emergencies unrelated to COVID-19. DeMonia, an antiques dealer for over 40 years, died three days before his 74th birthday. 

“Ray DeMonia was like no other,” the obituary reads. Ray, a native of Cullman, Alabama, was well known for DeMonia’s Antiques and Auctions where he spent 40 years in the antique business and traveled the country gathering antiques and sharing his wealth of knowledge.” “In honor of Ray, please get vaccinated if you have not.” “He would not want any other family to go through what his did.” 

DeMonia’s daughter, Raven DeMonia said to The Washington Post it was shocking to know there were no ICU beds available near Cullman. 

“I never thought this would happen to us,” Raven DeMonia said. 

Scott Harris, the head of the Alabama Department of Public Health, said Alabama is still experiencing a crisis with ICU bed capacity. 

“We have had a little bit of a plateau over the last week. I’m very thankful for that,” Harris said. “The numbers aren’t great. But the numbers at least have not continued to go up.”

According to a research by Johns Hopkins University, COVID-19 patients in Alabama occupy about half of the intensive care beds. Alabama has one of the lowest rates of vaccination in the United States with 40% of the state population fully vaccinated.

According to CNN, five states in the United States are nearly out of ICU beds, including Alabama. 

“As COVID-19 cases surge across the U.S., particularly among unvaccinated Americans, hospitals have been pushed to their limits treating the influx of patients,” CNN said. “Alabama, Georgia, Texas, Florida and Arkansas have less than 10% left of their ICU bed capacity, according to data from the Department of Health and Human Services.” 

Hospitals around the country have stretched as COVID-19 cases increase, and many hospitals have reported oxygen shortages. According to CNN, the South of the United States is where vaccinations have been lagging. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention “showed a hospitalization rate 16 times greater in the unvaccinated population than in those vaccinated.” 

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