Alabama’s COVID-related Hospitalizations Continue to Fall, While New Cases and Deaths Rise Slightly

The crisis of a shortage of hospital beds for COVID patients in Alabama is now just a bad memory.

In Birmingham Watch’s periodic analysis of data provided by the Alabama Department of Public Health, the number of beds occupied by those infected with the virus is now less than one-fourth of the peak reached in early January. The agency reported Wednesday that 773 beds held COVID inpatients, down from a high of 3,084 on Jan. 11.

The decline in the number of hospitalized patients is one of the supporting statistics used by Dr. Suzanne Judd, an epidemiologist with UAB Medicine, to forecast that the state may reach herd immunity — a point where so many people were either vaccinated or were producing antibodies to the virus after being infected, that the spread of the virus comes to a virtual halt. She said that could happen by as soon as late summer.

Judd said 1.5 million people who never tested positive for COVID – and perhaps many more — could be producing antibodies, based on studies of testing by UAB, Columbia University and Johns Hopkins University. She reported her findings in a press conference Wednesday morning.

The average number of new daily cases has reversed course, though, and trended slightly upward in the past week. The 7-day moving average stood ay 1,007.57 on Wednesday, after having slipped below the 1,000 mark for six straight days. The 14-day average still dropped, though just barely, to 1,010.93; that’s the lowest the average has been in 2021, and 74% below its all-time high on Jan. 10.

New death reports have leveled off somewhat in the past seven days but are still at levels well below those of early February. The 7-day average stands at 56.86 deaths each day, while the 14-day average is at 61.14. The longer-term average is at its lowest level since Nov. 12 and down from 81.64 over the week prior.

On Wednesday, the ADPH reported 1,247 new cases and 84 deaths across Alabama. Jefferson County had 125 new cases but no additional deaths Wednesday, the third day out of the last four with no fatalities. In the past week, the county has added 55 deaths and 873 new cases a day. The county’s 14-day positivity rate has fallen to 6.68%, down from 7.56% a week ago.

The statewide 7-day moving average positivity rate moved up to 21.52%, slightly higher than the previous week. The rate has been negatively affected by winter weather across the state, which has held down the number of tests administered.

As of Monday, there had been 1,036,645 doses of COVID-19 vaccine delivered to Alabama, with 790,427 of them administered so far, up from 663,056 last week. In all, 225,765 people have received both required doses of the vaccine, up just short of 50% over the week. There are 563,612 people who have received one or both doses of the two-shot regimen.

Birmingham Watch compiles its analyses based on data published by the ADPH, which gives updates daily on its COVID-19 home page.