Alabama Population Shrinks Under Weight of COVID-19 Deaths

Health care workers in COVD-19 area at UAB. Source: UAB

For the first time in the history of Alabama, COVID-19 last year pushed the state’s death rate higher than the birthrate.

“The state population is shrinking, and we have never seen that happen before in the history of Alabama,” Alabama State Health Officer Dr. Scott Harris said Wednesday.

In fact, more people died in Alabama last year than any other year on record.

The Alabama Department of Public Health reports that 7,181 people died from COVID-19 last year.

So far this year, there have been 5,603 COVID deaths, according to the ADPH. The combined number of deaths from COVID for 2020 and 2021 reported Wednesday is 12,784.

The Public Affairs Research Council of Alabama stated in a report earlier this year that, if earlier Census estimates were accurate, “The trend of deaths exceeding births in Alabama will happen again in 2021.”

 ‘Delta Has Velcro’

Public health experts also renewed their push for vaccines.

If everyone in the state got the COVID vaccine now, Harris said, things would look better by the end of October and through the holidays. “Do something today,” he added.

There are 1,450 sites in the state where  you can get COVID vaccinations.

Where to Find a COVID-19 Vaccine

Dr. Michael Saag of UAB’s Division of Infectious Diseases reiterated that people should still wear masks and distance themselves from others, if possible, at outdoor events such as football games.

Saag said the state’s high transmission rate means people are at increased risk of contracting COVID. As the rate stands now, if you are in a room with 10 people, there is a 20% chance that one of them is infected. If there are 50 people in a room, there’s an 80% to 90% chance one of them is infected; and if there are 100 people in a room, there’s a 99.9% chance at least one is infected.

“If you are sitting in a stadium with people spewing out the virus, know that delta has Velcro; if you breathe it, it will stick,” Saag said.

Addressing people who refuse to get vaccinated because they say it limits their freedom, Saag reminded them that there already are laws to protect the public, such as vaccine requirements for schoolchildren, smoking limitations and seat belt laws.

He and Harris urged people to use all the precautions available: get vaccinated, wear a mask, practice good hygiene and social distance whenever possible.

“Your risk is never zero, use all layers of protection,” Harris said.