Alabama COVID hospitalizations soon to hit alarming new peak with no end in sight, state health officer warns


State Health Officer Dr. Scott Harris gave an update on the surging COVID-19 pandemic in Alabama this morning and expressed alarm about the rising hospitalization numbers.

The number of COVID-19 patients in Alabama hospitals has grown more than 10-fold since early July, from about 200 to almost 2,400 as of Wednesday.

Until about five weeks ago, the number of hospitalized patients had fallen sharply since the peak of about 3,100 in January.

During a 45-minute briefing with reporters this morning, Harris said he expects the number of hospitalized to exceed the January peak within a few days. Harris said the high rate of positive COVID tests indicates the alarming trend is not likely to turn around quickly.

Harris reiterated the message he has pressed for months, urging people to get one of the three widely available, free vaccines, which he said are meeting the expectations for effectiveness. Harris said about 86% of those hospitalized with COVID-19 in recent days were unvaccinated.

“I think the message we want people to take away is that most of these hospitalizations, 90% of them, are preventable,” Harris said.

The highly contagious Delta variant and Alabama’s low vaccination rate are helping to fuel the sharp rise in cases and hospitalizations, he said.

The Alabama Department of Public Health reported almost 3,900 new cases on Wednesday, with almost 1,400 of those in Baldwin, Jefferson, and Mobile counties.

The ADPH dashboard shows a high level of community transmission in all 67 counties. Since the pandemic started about 17 months ago, Alabama has had about 620,000 reported cases of COVID-19 and 11,689 deaths, according to the ADPH.

Other points Harris made this morning:

  • The positivity rate on COVID-19 tests statewide is 22%, the highest in the nation. The rate in some counties exceeds 40%.
  • Pregnant women are encouraged to received vaccines. Harris said the latest information reinforces the safety of the vaccines for pregnant women.
  • Only about 24% of Alabamians age 12 to 17 have received vaccinations. Harris said that is a concern as school systems open around the state.
  • Monoclonal antibody treatments are effective for people diagnosed with COVID-19, especially those at high risk for serious illness, and can help keep the out of the hospital.
  • The number of COVID-19 deaths reported daily in Alabama has risen consistently into double digits in recent days. The increase in deaths generally is a lagging indicator that follows increased positive cases and hospitalizations.
  • The rate of vaccinations in Alabama has increased by about three-fold since June and early July, but is still well short of the peak in the spring. About 18,000 people received vaccinations on Friday.
  • People who test positive for COVID-19 still need to quarantine at home for 10 to 14 days.
  • With a two-shot vaccine, it takes six or seven weeks after the first shot to be fully protected.
  • About 40 of the hospitalized patients are children.
  • Alabama has talked to federal officials about the possibility of federal help with hospital staffing, but no request has been made yet.
  • Harris said there is soe the AD

This story will be updated when Harris gives the briefing.

Related: Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey continues to urge vaccinations as COVID cases explode on Alabama’s Gulf Coast

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