Alabama Averaging 4,100 New COVID Cases a Day as Deaths Spike

Workers on the front lines of Alabama’s battle with the COVID-19 virus lined up in the past few days for vaccines as the number of patients they are trying to help continues to increase sharply.

In BirminghamWatch’s weekly analysis of pandemic data, the number of daily new cases has reached new highs yet again, with the 7-day moving average topping the 4,000 mark for the first time. Both moving averages set all-time records Wednesday, with the 7-day average standing at 4,132.71, an 80% hike since Dec. 1. The 14-day average is at 3,817.57, up 66.7% since the beginning of the month.

For the first time since the pandemic began in March, the number of daily new deaths reached triple digits. The Alabama Department of Public Health reported 135 additional deaths Wednesday, and the 7-day moving average was 55.57 per day — an 82.6% increase in just one week. The 14-day average also reached a new high of 43.0, up 23.6% for the week.

Since the pandemic began, 4,587 people have died from the virus, and 334,569 people have tested positive, or about 6.8% of the entire population of Alabama.

When new cases are measured on a per-capita basis, the counties with the highest per-capita rates stretch in a strip northward from Clarke County, going through Jefferson County toward Jackson County in the northeast corner. Jefferson had 9,824 cases over two weeks, or 1,490.1 per 100,000, its highest rate thus far.

The positivity rate — the percentage of total tests that return positive results — remains high, with the problem area now concentrated in the northwest quadrant of the state, where all but two counties north of Interstate 20/59 and west of Interstate 65 have positivity rates of 47% or higher. That means almost one out of every two tests is positive and in some cases more. Marion County has the worst rate with 68.64%, more than two out of every three tests. In addition, Blount, Etowah and DeKalb are above 50%, and Marshall is just below that level.

Jefferson County’s positivity rate is 40.48%.

Record Hospitalizations

All of these data points come to bear on the number of people hospitalized with COVID-19, which reached a new record again in the past week. As of Tuesday, that number stood at 2,535 statewide, slightly below the new high set the day before. That total is up by 6% over the past seven days and 42% since the beginning of December.

In Birmingham, UAB Hospital reached a new high of 185 COVID-19 inpatients during the past week, falling to 179 as of Wednesday. In north Alabama, Huntsville Hospital Health System on Wednesday reported 473 inpatients in its eight facilities in six counties, up slightly more than 10% from a week prior. It had 248 in its Madison County facilities, alone. And in Tuscaloosa, DCH Regional Medical Center reported Tuesday that 178 inpatients had COVID-19, up 16.3% from the previous Tuesday.

Coming up, data in many categories may not be reported on normal schedules over the four-day Christmas weekend, as well as over the New Year’s holiday the following week.

BirminghamWatch uses COVID-19 data for its weekly analysis from the Alabama Department of Public Health, which is released to the public daily on its online dashboard.