OPELIKA, Ala. (WRBL) – Tuesday, hospitals across Alabama paused to remember thousands who have died in the state due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the familes who miss them. The statewide moment of silence comes as an Opelika father issues an urgent plea for others to get vaccinated in memory of his son.

Opelika’s Nick Bledsoe was a beloved husband, father, and son. Unfortunately, he passed away after a weeks-long battle at Opelika’s East Alabama Medical Center over the weekend.

Nick’s dad, Hal Bledsoe, says the virus and misinformation took his son. In a compassionate and courageous plea, the grieving father posted on social media, “As my son passed away, his last words before he was put on a ventilator was Daddy as soon as I get out and I am able me and Beth are going to get our shots. So if you haven’t had your shot, do that for me and my son and for yourself,” said Bledsoe.

Tuesday, at noon, EAMC staff gathered at their flag pole in front of the hospital. EAMC Chaplain Laura Eason lead the group in prayer, followed by a moment of silence.

“Today is a somber day in the state of Alabama as we pause and remember all the lives lost due to COVID-19, their families, and friends. As of 10:15 this morning, 12,420 have died due to COVID across the state. Two hundred seventy-three of those here at East Alabama Health,” said Eason.

Health care workers are exhausted but soldier on, working to save lives, educate patients about vaccines, and distribute 2,843 Covid-19 infusions, preventing many from being hospitalized.

“I also want this to be a day of hope for all of the lives saved. Because of the incredibly hard work of our physicians, nurses, therapist, and our entire staff, there have been 1,813 people hospitalized at East Alabama Medical Center that survived and have been able to be discharged and recover at home,” said Eason.

The moment of silence comes as East Alabama Health reaches a grim milestone. Saturday the hospital had 93 hospitalizations with 23 patients on ventilators, the highest yet in the pandemic. The vast majority of patients are not vaccinated. The handful of patients who are fully vaccinated in the hospital are older and immunocompromised.

EAMC Chief of Staff, Dr. Michael Roberts shared the solemn moment with his staff, who are weary and frustrated due to deadly misinformation as some in our community remain convinced the virus isn’t that bad and refuse to consider getting a vaccine proven to be safe and effective, even against the incredibly contagious delta variant.

“Misinformation has done a true disservice to our community and our country. I feel like we are fighting a battle on two fronts. We have very, very sick patients, and we are doing everything we can to make them better. Then, when we leave this place, we are fighting this battle against all of the information and reliance on unproven strategies. We know we have a safe and effective vaccine that can prevent in many many cases serve illness and death,” said Dr. Roberts.

Dr. Roberts says if you know a health care worker in your neighborhood or friend group, please reach out and support them as best as you can. The delta surge continues, and workers need as much support as we can give them.