MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WSFA) - The number of new COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations continues to be on a downward trend in Alabama.
Two months ago, Alabama was experiencing a record-high number of COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths triggered by the holiday season. Now, numbers are trending back down to where they were during the early months of the pandemic.
As of Friday, the Alabama Department of Public Health is reporting 442 new COVID-19 cases, a decrease from the 905 cases reported this same day a month ago. However, both of these daily case numbers are a stark contrast to where the state was in December and January when case numbers were averaging anywhere between 2,000 to 5,000 a day.
The state’s total number of hospitalized COVID-19 patients peaked in January at over 3,000. As of Friday, that number is now at 361. The Alabama Department of Public Health has not reported a daily COVID-19 hospitalization number that low since April of 2020.
Don Williamson, president of the Alabama Hospital Association, said just within the past month the state has seen a 56% decline in hospitalizations and a 54% decline in new cases.
“Compared to where we were in January, we really do see a light at the end of the tunnel,” Williamson said.
Hospitals remain busy across the state, Williamson said, but staff are feeling less overwhelmed and are nowhere near where they were after the holiday spike.
“We are not overwhelmed with COVID, and there is a since of return to normality as we’re seeing elective procedures return much more closely to normal,” Williamson said. “The pressure on staffing is also better.”
As of Friday, Baptist Health hospitals are treating a total of 32 COVID-19 positive inpatients. This is a decrease in 14 inpatients from exactly a month ago. The last time Baptist Health was below 32 inpatients was on Oct. 7 when they were treating 25 positive inpatients.
Jackson Hospital reports treating 17 positive COVID-19 inpatients as of Friday. Jackson has been trending in that range (between 12-17 inpatients) since March 7. They have not had inpatient numbers this low since September 2020.
“Around Christmas I was treating 92 patients, calling 92 patients a day, but now I’m down to eight, so it’s getting better,” said Montgomery-area pulmonologist Dr. David Thrasher. “It’s not over, but it’s a lot better.”
Doctors largely contribute the decline in hospitalizations to the over 500,000 people who have already had COVID-19 and developed residual immunity, combined with the nearly 592,000 people who are now fully vaccinated in the state.
Doctors said the positive trend we are seeing could turn at any moment, they remind people to not let their guard down.
“If we will get vaccinated when we can, we will build herd immunity, and we will be able to shut down virus infection and virus replication,” Williamson said. “The masks allow us to limit transmission while we are building toward herd immunity.”
Hospitalization numbers this week are beginning to plateau, Doctors said this could have to do with the new strains of the virus developing, but said that case numbers and hospitalization numbers will not hit zero, even when we reach herd immunity.
“I am ecstatic with the progress we have made, but I want to make sure people understand that we aren’t done yet,” Williamson said. “You’ve got to get your vaccine and you’ve got to wear your mask, and the reasonable expectation is that we will not get to zero (cases or hospitalizations).”
“I think July is going to be a pretty good goal for America to be in pretty good shape,” Thrasher said. “I’m worried about spring break and the Easter gatherings, but besides that I feel that we are going to be in a lot better shape this summer if everybody does what they need to do, wear the masks and social distance, until we can get everyone vaccinated.”
The state has administered over 1.5 million vaccine doses, and over 592,000 people are fully vaccinated.
In the last year, Alabama has confirmed 513,580 confirmed COVID-19 cases and 10,523 deaths from the virus.