Alabama as a whole is now classified as being at high risk of COVID transmission as cases skyrocket just days before Christmas.
On Thursday, 2,060 new COVID cases were reported, giving the state a 1,173 7-day average for new cases, more than triple the daily average at the start of the month.
Twenty-two more deaths were reported in the Alabama Department of Public Health’s Thursday update.
The state has a 12% positivity rate, meaning 12 of every 100 COVID tests returned positive results. That’s more than double the rate at the beginning of the month.
The increases come as the highly infectious omicron variant has become the dominant COVID strain across the U.S. Omicron’s ability to spread has been compared to measles, one of the most infectious agents known to man.
Studies so far are showing omicron often causes milder illness than the earlier strains of the disease, including delta. However, because it sickens more people, health officials worry that an influx of patients could overwhelm the health care system.
“I sadly don’t think we are going to escape this,” Dr. Jeanne Marrazzo, director of the Division of Infectious Disease at UAB, said in a press conference Tuesday. “There’s really no way, and with about half of our population not being vaccinated, it’s really a very big concern for our health care system.”
ADPH reported that 433 were hospitalized with the disease as of Thursday.
However, Marrazzo said she did not forsee another lockdown. She said holiday travel and gatherings are a big concern, but she realizes that many people have not gathered with their families for two years and do not want to cancel their plans, despite the risk.
“If you want to get together with family this Christmas and into the new year, the best thing you can do is make sure you are as boosted as possible. If you have access to testing, test yourself before you go. … And then if you are going to be around people whose status you don’t know, please wear masks. Masks really work, but you’re going to need to wear good masks, better masks and less permeable masks to keep out something as infectious as the measles.”
She advised people to consider their own risk level and the groups they are meeting with when deciding what to do to protect themselves.
If you have elevated risk factors or are gathering with people who are not vaccinated or in poorly ventilated areas, wear an N95 mask, which fits tightly on the face. Or double mask – wearing a cloth mask over a surgical mask – if you don’t have an N95. The key is the density of the fabric and the fit on your face, Marrazzo said.
Jefferson County, which was moved into the high risk category earlier this week, took another big leap Thursday with 549 new COVID cases reported.
Jefferson County Health Officer Mark Wilson said Tuesday that new cases of COVID had “shot up” in the past week, when the county was experiencing between 30 and 40 new cases per day.
Shelby County also is in the high risk category, as are 38 of Alabama’s 67 counties. Only two counties are in the low risk category, Conecuh and Clarke.
Here is case data for each of the counties:
County of Residence Total Cases Total Deaths 7-Day % Change 7-Day % Positives 7-Day Case Rate