Harris not yet confident Alabama has seen omicron peak

Published: Jan. 21, 2022 at 12:39 PM CST
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MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WSFA) - While Alabamians may be ready to move past the COVID-19 health pandemic, state health officials say we aren’t seeing the light at the end of the tunnel yet.

Alabama State Health Officer Dr. Scott Haris says while other parts of the world have seen a peak and decrease in COVID-19 cases, the state’s numbers are still high.

The Alabama Department of Public Health’s data dashboard showed 1,120,881 positive COVID-19 cases on Thursday. In the last seven days, 110,190 people have been tested and 51,015 positive cases have been reported. The current positivity rate is 46.3, the highest seen since the beginning of the pandemic.

Harris said the omicron variant is the most contagious of the variants we have seen during the pandemic.

[MORE: Omicron surge is undermining care for other health problems]

“The omicron variant is not the same virus we had last summer or two years ago,” Harris added.

Harris said people must take the additional steps necessary to limit their exposure. Harris also stressed the importance of getting the vaccine.

“Think of it like a seatbelt. If you wear a seatbelt, it doesn’t stop you from having a wreck in your car, but if you do have a wreck, it can keep you from serious injury or death,” Harris said.

Currently, 2,703 COVID-19 patients are in hospitals across the state. Harris said while the vaccine doesn’t keep someone from getting sick, it can improve your chances of not dying.

“You can cut your risk by 50-fold of ending up in the hospital,” Harris said.

While experts believe the omicron variant seems to cause less severe disease, Harris said that doesn’t mean that it doesn’t seriously affect people. He added that the current death rate for COVID-19 is 10 times higher than what is typically seen with the flu. ADPH has reported 16,824 deaths related to COVID-19 in our state since the pandemic started in 2020.

“We are always going to have new variants. What we hope is that they won’t be as severe,” Harris added.

ADPH reported over 26,000 COVID-19 in the state’s public schools this week. To help combat the spread, Alabama State University and Montgomery Public Schools are teaming up to provide a COVID-19 vaccine clinic for students ages 5-11. The clinics are scheduled to take place Friday and Jan. 28 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. in Lockhart Gymnasium on ASU’s campus.

ASU said 300 pediatric doses of the Pfizer vaccine would be available at the first clinic.

Alabama began administering the Pfizer vaccine on Dec. 15, 2020 and the Moderna vaccine shortly after FDA approved ar. A single dose Johnson and Johnson vaccine FDA Feb. 27, 2021. As of Thursday, there have been 5,631,233 vaccines administered.

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