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Alabamians urged to stay vigilant amid dropping COVID case numbers

The state’s hospital association notes deaths have played major role in decline of hospitalization rate
Published: Sep. 23, 2021 at 11:42 AM CDT|Updated: Sep. 23, 2021 at 5:05 PM CDT
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MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WSFA) - The Alabama Department of Public Health and Alabama Hospital Association are cautioning residents not to let their guard down despite the decreasing number of COVID-19 cases, percent positive tests, and hospitalizations.

“Alabamians may feel the worst is behind us,” ADPH said, but warned “the potential for this virus to cause infection, disease and death remains high.”

The number of COVID hospitalizations has dropped by around 40% in September, but that’s not the entire story.

“Unfortunately, deaths are still a substantive driver for the decline,” said Dr. Don Williamson, the president of the Alabama Hospital Association. “We had 27 consecutive days where we had more than 40 deaths reported each day, and those are now beginning to be reflected in the public health data where we’re seeing 200, 250, I think 130 deaths reported today.”

Williamson said the state still has more than 435 patients on ventilators and 600 in ICU beds, and explained the grim outlook. “Probably at least half of those individuals will not do well with their illness, just based on what the history’s been. So we’ve got significant more days of too many people in Alabama dying to deal with.”

While noting the trend in the decline in cases, Williamson pointed out that “in the last three days we’ve had over 3,000 new cases diagnosed each day,” and added “while things are getting better, there are still some very troubling underlying trends that we’ve got to deal with before we’re out of this.”

There were 3,356 new cases reported since Wednesday.

The health department urges people to take preventative measures and get vaccinated, even among those who are younger, noting that more than 25% of those infected are 17 years old or younger. There are no approved vaccines for those under 12, meaning prevention remains especially important for children.

The health department also cautions that while many people have contracted COVID and have gotten some natural immunity from it, it’s not yet clear how long that immunity will last. It may vary from person to person. Those who have gotten the virus and recovered should still be vaccinated after their isolation period ends. ADPH added that for those who have been treated with monoclonal antibodies, vaccinations are recommended after 90 days.

So why not ditch the mask and other measures as the case numbers decline? Community transmission rates remain high. Of Alabama’s 67 counties, 64 are still at high risk for COVID transmission. That needs to be low range before thinking about relaxing measures, ADPH officials said.

Williamson said he’s concerned that the state could enter November and December with a still sizable number of hospitalized COVID patients, somewhere in the range of 300 to 500.

“I worry that while we might not overwhelm our hospitals with COVID in January, we could very well overwhelm the hospitals in January with a combination of COVID and a bad, or even an almost a routine influenza season.”

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