COVID-19 hospitalizations rising again in Alabama

Published: Jul. 20, 2021 at 8:27 PM CDT
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MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WSFA) - As the highly contagious delta variant spreads across Alabama, the state’s hospitals are seeing a rise in patients.

As of Tuesday, there were 554 people being treated for COVID-19 across Alabama hospitals, an increase from the 166 patients being treated for the virus just a month ago.

There has been an increase in COVID-19 hospitalizations in Alabama over the past month.
There has been an increase in COVID-19 hospitalizations in Alabama over the past month.(Source: The Alabama Department of Public Health)

“That numbers going to go up,” said Don Williamson, president of the Alabama Hospital Association. “I don’t know how high it’s going to go up, but I have said I don’t believe it’ll get to the level that it did in January at over 3,000 but that’s only because we vaccinated the most at-risk population. The population most likely to be hospitalized and have bad outcomes.”

Williamson said Alabama missed the opportunity to take hold of the virus this summer.

“We had an opportunity to essentially put this virus behind us by increasing our vaccination levels over that month,” Williamson said. “We didn’t do that.”

Alabama now ranks last in the nation for vaccination rates with about 33% of the population considered fully vaccinated.

Masks are no longer mandated in Alabama, but Williamson points out that even those without the shots are going mask free.

“The CDC said if you are vaccinated you do not have to wear masks indoors, they said for unvaccinated individuals the world has not changed, you still need to wear a mask,” Williamson said.

A lack of mask wearing, combined with low vaccination rates, is the perfect storm for the more contagious and deadly Delta variant to spread across Alabama.

“We now have a variant that is significantly more infectious than any viral variant with which we’ve dealt,” Williamson said.

Nationally, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, or CDC, says the delta variant of the COVID-19 virus now makes up more than 83% of cases. And in Alabama it’s taking it’s toll on the unvaccinated.

“We have a brush fire burning through a population of unvaccinated individuals,” Williamson said.

“We’re going to see increasing hospitalizations, we’re going to see increasing ICU use, we will see increasing numbers of deaths as a result of that, and I think the tragedy of that is this is a self-inflicted wound,” he went on to say.

The greatest concern for Alabama, he said, is the possibility of a vaccine-evading mutation emerging, given the rapid spread of the virus and the low vaccination rates in the state.

“We’re going to allow the emergence of a variant that is unable to be prevented by our vaccines, and if that happens we are back starting all over again,” Williamson said.

In Montgomery, Jackson Hospital is currently treating 13 COVID-19 patients as of Monday. Across the three Baptist area hospitals there are 22 patients being treated for the virus.

The Alabama Department of Public Health reports 7,915 cases of COVID-19 in the last 14 days, and 70% of the state’s counties have reached “very high risk” levels for COVID-19 spread in just three weeks.

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