Alabama’s COVID Numbers Take a Turn for the Worse

Just two weeks after Gov. Kay Ivey relaxed many mandates and restrictions concerning the COVID-19 pandemic, Alabama’s new cases, deaths and hospitalizations have reversed their previous downward trends.

In BirminghamWatch’s periodic analysis of COVID data, the 7-day moving average of new cases reported by the Alabama Department of Public Health is up to 391.14 per day. That average has been adjusted by BirminghamWatch to account for a backlog of 1,150 cases reported Tuesday by health agencies — the second such backlog in two weeks. The backlogged cases date from October to last week, as did the previous batch on April 13.

The adjusted average compares to 305 cases per day a week prior, an increase of 28.2%. The longer-term 14-day average, also adjusted because of the backlog, is now at 348.07 new cases per day, up from 298.93 seven days beforehand, a rise of 16.4%.

The death toll has also swung back upward after several weeks of decreasing numbers. The 7-day average is up to 12.57 deaths per day, a 44.3% spike from the previous week when the average was down to 8.71. The 14-day average declined slightly to 10.64 deaths per day, down from 13.07 on April 15.

Thursday’s daily ADPH report showed 682 new cases, the highest number in five weeks (discarding daily reports inflated by backlogs), and 17 deaths were reported.

Hospitalizations of COVID patients continued an uptrend as well with 366 inpatients listed in Wednesday’s report, up from 327 a week beforehand.

Jefferson County had 212 new cases of the virus in the past seven days, a 7-day average of 33.71 per day. No cases were reported on Tuesday or Wednesday; it’s unclear if that was due to a reporting anomaly. The weekly total is down from 228 for the week ending April 15. Seven deaths were reported in the county in the past seven days, down from 13 the week before.

The county’s 14-day average positivity rate has dropped to 2.54%, one of the lowest rates since the statistic was first measured in April of last year.

On Tuesday, the ADPH announced on its website that it would change the way that new daily COVID cases are figured. Instead of counting them on the date when the report is received from a lab or other health care provider, the department will now count them on dates “when persons were most likely to be infectious (when person is more likely to transmit virus to others).”

Assistant State Health Officer Dr. Karen Landers said the change was made in an attempt to deal with problems caused by large numbers of old cases that are fed into the state reporting system all at once, such as the two incidents this month.

“Even though entities are supposed to report to us positive results within 24 hours, there are times when we don’t get those results in a timely manner,” Landers said. “It presents a better picture of what’s going on in terms of disease transmission. … I think this will be a more accurate reflection of what’s really happening on a daily basis.”

Even though data dumps have been fewer in number in recent times, Landers said that sometimes “reports would lag, and it would change our daily picture just a bit.”

The change may result in data from some daily reports changing a few days after they are initially released, “but I don’t think it’s going to make a significant change,” Landers said. “Our goal all along has been to try to present the data in the most understandable manner for the general public.”

The ADPH reports that 959,131 people in Alabama have received full treatments of COVID vaccine, and 1,422,883 people have had at least one dose. In total, 2,308,412 doses have been administered out of 3,654,095 delivered to the state.

BirminghamWatch’s analysis is based on numbers updated each day by the ADPH on its website.