State health officer: Alabama set to break COVID-19 hospitalization record
MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WSFA) - Alabama is moving in the wrong direction and is within days of eclipsing its record for COVID-19 hospitalizations, the state’s health director assessed during a news conference Thursday.
Alabama State Health Officer Dr. Scott Harris, on multiple occasions during the update, called the rise in cases and hospitalizations “unprecedented” and said the death toll is once again rising to double-digit levels per day that haven’t been seen in months.
The Alabama Department of Public Health confirmed 4,167 new cases Thursday, adding to the more than 4,000 from the day before. There have been 18,000 new cases in the last 7 days, per ADPH data.
“The state of Alabama leads the country in positivity rates at unprecedented numbers,” Harris explained, referring to the percentage of COVID-19 tests that were positive. The positivity rate has climbed this month and reached more than 24% this week.
There were also another 35 deaths confirmed, though Harris cautioned deaths are a “lagging indicator” that provide a snapshot from three or four weeks ago. He said the deaths being confirmed now are from around July 4, and he believes they will only continue to rise with new infections.
“We see case numbers go up, we see hospitalizations go up, and then we see deaths go up,” Harris stated.
The state’s hospitalization rate was up by 70 on Thursday to 2,441. The state set a record of 3,084 inpatients in mid-January and Harris said it’s expected that number will be surpassed within days. Harris said only 5% of ICU hospital beds remain available statewide, as of Thursday.
Additionally, pediatrician and Deputy State Health Officer Dr. Karen Landers said “it appears, at least anecdotally, that we are seeing more children who are ill with this delta variant.”
The vast majority of those those hospitalized, currently 88%, are not fully vaccinated, Harris said.
Alabama ranks last in the nation for rates of citizens being fully vaccinated, though ADPH has seen an uptick in vaccination rates in recent days as the latest surge continues. Harris called it “encouraging” but said young people are not getting vaccinated fast enough and reminded that vaccinations are still the best way to prevent deaths and new infections.
There are a growing number of “breakthrough” cases among those who are fully vaccinated, though the overwhelming majority have mild symptoms and rarely need hospitalization. Harris said there have been 23 deaths among the fully vaccinated since April, accounting for about .001% of deaths.
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