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An Alabama man died of heart failure after being turned away from 43 hospitals across three southern states that were overrun with COVID patients.
Ray DeMonia, 73, was eventually admitted to a hospital in Meridian, Mississippi, 200 miles away from his home in Cullman, Alabama, but was too sick to save, and died on September 1.
DeMonia, who ran an antiquing business for 40 years, had suffered a heart incident just days before his birthday and needed a specialized cardiac ICU bed.
His family said that staff at their local hospital had contacted 43 hospitals across three states asking for a free bed before they finally located on in Meridian, Mississippi, according to DeMonia's obituary.
He died shortly after arriving at the Rush Foundation Hospital.
'In honor of Ray, please get vaccinated if you have not, in an effort to free up resources for non-COVID-related emergencies,' his obit read.
DeMonia's death came on the same day the US reported 180,000 new COVID cases, with a majority concentrated in the South.
COVID-19 Hospitalizations saw a dramatic spike in August in Alabama and the rest of the US
Alabama has been trailing behind in vaccination rates, with the state only recently reporting that about 50% of its eligible population has received at least one dose
The Alabama Health Department recently reported that just over half of those eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine have gotten at least one jab.
That falls well short of the national average of 63.7 per cent who've had at least one dose, and 54 per cent of Americans who are fully-vaccinated.
During the week of DeMonia's death, Alabama reported a shortage of ICU hospital beds, with more than half of them being occupied by COVID-19 patients, CBS 42reported.
The Alabama Hospital Association had called the situation 'dire.'
'We're certainly not trending in the right direction,' AHA Deputy Director Danne Howard told CBS the day DeMonia died.
'That's why we're so aggressively trying to find additional resources, so those decisions don't have to be made, so those type of life-or-death situations are not something that have to be faced.'
Johns Hopkins University & Medicine found that Alabama ICU beds were at 103% capacity that week, and the Montgomery Advertiser reported that unvaccinated patients continue to make up the majority of COVID-19 patients in the ICUs.
DeMonia's family have asked others to get vaccinated to avoid the situation they went through. Pictured, a woman getting vaccinated in Altamonte Springs, Florida, in August
Russell Griffin, a professor of epidemiology at University of Alabama Birmingham who has studied patients hospitalized at the university's hospital for COVID, said 61 of 66 patients in intensive care for COVID were unvaccinated.
He added that the about half of the vaccinated patients in the ICUs are there because they are immunocompromised due to organ transplants or chemotherapies.
By comparison, the unvaccinated population that ends up in ICU generally lacks comorbidities, or the presence of two or more medical conditions.
'There have been no deaths under the age of 65 in the vaccinated population at UAB,' Griffin said.
On Friday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported more than 163,000 new cases in the U.S., and nearly 1,650 new deaths.