MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WSFA) - Alabama Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh said he used a poor choice of words Thursday when he said he wants to see more people get COVID-19.
“It was a poor choice of words on my end, but ultimately what I was trying to say, and people can look at it, there are very few choices we have. Ultimately if there’s no vaccine, herd immunity is the only one I can think of that’s eventually going to take place,” Marsh said Friday.
On Thursday, a reporter asked Marsh if he and other lawmakers were concerned the state was reopening too fast based on the recent increase in cases. Marsh said he didn’t support shutting down the state the first time, and he doesn’t think the state or country will be shut down again.
“I’m not as concerned so much as the number of cases, in fact, quite honestly, I want to see more people because we start reaching an immunity as more people have it and get through it,” Marsh said. “I don’t want any deaths, as few as possible. I get it. So those people who are susceptible to the disease, especially those with pre-existing conditions, elderly population, those folks we need to do all we can to protect them.”
Dr. Karen Landers with the Alabama Department of Public Health shared this information about herd immunity:
“Herd immunity means that enough persons have had a disease and developed immunity which will limit the spread. In order for herd immunity to prevent spread, there has to be a very high number of immune persons and the immunity has to be long lasting. In general, the most effective way to achieve herd immunity is through vaccination, but herd immunity can occur with some other diseases through natural infection. In order to have the numbers of persons immune, thus herd immunity, many persons would have to develop the virus and some would die.
“For COVID 19, the science is still evolving. At this time, scientists do not know whether persons who have had COVID 19 will have immunity that lasts for a long period of time. Currently, it appears that at least 60% to 70% of persons would need to have COVID 19 for herd immunity and, again, no one knows how long this immunity would last. For the state of Alabama, that would require an extremely large number of persons to have had the disease.”
In a Facebook post Thursday night, the Alabama Democratic Party responded to Marsh’s comments, saying “it is this type of dangerously stupid thinking that hurts Alabamians. We need politicians to just shut up and listen to health officials.”
Marsh, a Republican from Anniston, also said Thursday he’s more concerned about hospitals being overwhelmed.
“I would be more concerned if we have overcapacity at the hospitals, and I don’t see that,” Marsh said.
The number of COVID-19 hospitalizations in Alabama has climbed each day this week. On Friday, ADPH data showed 1,183 hospitalized.
Alabama Hospital Association Executive Director Dr. Don Williamson said hospitals in the state are strained under the rise in cases.
“[Wednesday] was a really, really bad day,” Williamson said. “We set a new record in terms of number of people in the hospital. We set a new record in terms of number of people who were admitted yesterday. We had the fewest number of ICU beds available statewide that we’ve ever had. We had the fewest number of general medicine surgery beds for adults that we’ve had since it started.”
Another 1,304 cases of COVID-19 were confirmed Friday, according to ADPH, bringing the state to just short of 50,000 total cases. The last two weeks account for about 30 percent of those infections, or around 15,000.