Doctor: At least 80% of COVID-19 cases transmitted by those unaware they’re sick

UAB doctor expresses concern for growing COVID-19 cases

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WSFA) - COVID-19 trends continue to escalate across the state and country.

On Wednesday, Alabama saw another 2,638 new cases reported, according to the Alabama Department of Public Health.

Hospitalizations are also ramping up. The state reported more than 1,300 patients are currently admitted with the virus. Of those, 112 are being treated in Montgomery-area hospitals.

To date, both Baptist Health and Jackson Hospital tell WSFA 12 News their occupancy numbers are manageable and no changes are on the horizon.

As record-breaking case numbers stack up, UAB’s top immunologist, Dr. Jeanne Marrazzo, knows what’s ahead.

“With these trends, cases tend to peak two weeks before you see the highest numbers of deaths and hospitalization,” she explained. “I can’t emphasize enough that as case numbers continue increasing, we can expect that subsequent wave of hospitalizations and deaths to follow. "

That’s especially troubling knowing that people from different areas and age groups will likely intermingle over Thanksgiving, pushing new watermarks even higher.

“If you think about the number of people you may know who’ve gotten infected, the number who said they got infected after being around someone who was sick is very low,” Marrazzo said. “We are estimating now that at least 80 percent [of transmissions], if not more, come from people during the two to four-day period before they develop symptoms, and they are highly infectious.”

Despite the likely onslaught of cases, there’s good news to report in the pursuit of a COVID-19 vaccine. Wednesday, Pfizer announced its vaccine is 95 percent effective in preventing the virus and 94 percent effective in protecting those over 65, which is a real challenge.

“I would like people to continue behaving as if we don’t have a vaccine because, in reality, we don’t have a vaccine yet. We won’t have a vaccine for everybody probably well into 2021,” she stated.

A vaccine may be available as early as mid-December for distribution in Alabama, which will go to health care workers and first responders, likely at a time when it’s needed most. Some hospitals are already considering contingency plans as inpatient numbers quickly grow.

“You can’t be at the kinds of capacity that many of our hospitals are in now to not have a serious plan about curbing elective procedures,” Marrazzo said.

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