Category: Coronavirus

Alabama’s COVID Numbers Stay Mostly Steady as Delta Variant Remains Dominant

As health officials worldwide cast a wary eye on the newly discovered omicron variant of the COVID-19 virus, the delta strain continues to account for the vast majority of new cases in Alabama.

In BirminghamWatch’s periodic analysis of the spread of COVID throughout the state, the number of daily new cases has risen from reports covering the Thanksgiving holiday period. However, the amount of fluctuation in the numbers caused by health agency staffers taking time off during that period is unclear.

The 7-day moving average of new COVID cases stands at 352.86 per day as of Thursday. That’s up from 283 on Tuesday, the lowest level the average has seen since July 7, but it also is down by 21% from the average of 444.43 a week before. The average has been in a steady decline since Sept. 1, when the pandemic all-time record of 5,538 cases per day was set at the height of the delta-variant surge. Read more.

Researchers Probing Effects of “Long COVID”; Cases and Deaths Continue Decline

While COVID-19 infection numbers have turned downward over the past couple of months, there are multiple symptoms of the virus that are causing problems over extended periods of time.

Health officials are just starting to get a handle on how extensive the problem, appropriately called “long COVID,” is and what the longstanding effects are.

Dr. Jeanne Marrazzo, director of UAB Medicine’s Division of Infectious Diseases, said more research is being done to try to pin down what causes some COVID patients to suffer symptoms for months at a time. Loss of the senses of taste or smell are probably the best-known symptoms affecting those who were not hospitalized for COVID, but the range of symptoms is much wider than that for both those who were hospitalized or not.

“It became pretty clear after the first wave, last spring, starting in the Northeast and in Europe, that there was a significant subset of people who really took a long time to get better from COVID, didn’t get better, or got better but had relapses of some very distinct symptom complexes,” Marrazzo said. Read more.

An Unlikely Place, Lowndes County, Has the Highest COVID-19 Vaccination Rate in Alabama

At the beginning of the pandemic in 2020, Lowndes County was one of the hardest hit places in Alabama. So when the vaccine became available, doses were rushed to Lowndes and other Black Belt counties by the federal government.

Churches and other community groups encouraged the vaccine, and as of November, more than 50% of Lowndes County residents are immunized. That’s higher than the state’s vaccination rate of 45%. Read more.

COVID Decline: Alabama Almost Down to Low Virus Transmission Rate

For the first time in more than four months, Alabama is very near a level of community COVID-19 transmission that public health officials have been hoping for.

In BirminghamWatch’s periodic analysis of the state’s pandemic data, the two-part criteria for officially rating the transmission level as “low” has almost been met.

The positivity rate — the percentage of all COVID tests in a 7-day period that return a positive result — is at 4.6%. The rate has been below the required 5% threshold for more than a week.

But the 7-day average of total cases per 100,000 residents isn’t yet at the required level, though it is very close. It’s now at 10.02, just above the 9.99 mark classified as “low.”

The last time the community transmission level met both criteria for a “low” classification was in early July, and then it was only for three days as the positivity rate dipped below 5%. On July 5 and 6, the cases-per-100,000 average reached 2.41, the lowest reading since the pandemic began in early 2020.

But while the statewide transmission level is the best it’s been in months, county-by-county data tells a different story. Eight of Alabama’s 67 counties are still in the highest of the four classifications, which means that one or both criteria are above the top thresholds. Among them is nearby Walker County, which has a moderate 8.9% positivity rate and a high 7-day cases-per-100,000 average of more than 100. Read more.

Commission on State’s Pandemic Response Recommends Legislation

MONTGOMERY — Alabama state agencies say they need more flexibility in purchasing during emergencies and the ability to hire essential staff in times of crisis.

Those were among the findings of the Alabama Pandemic Response and Preparedness Commission based on input from various state agencies on how they responded in the first months of the COVID-19 pandemic. The commission’s final report included recommendations that could become legislation. Read more.

Lawmakers Pass 2 Vaccine Mandate Bills in Final Night of Session

MONTGOMERY — The Alabama Legislature late Thursday passed bills to make it easier for workers in the state to opt out of federal COVID-19 vaccine mandates and prohibit minors from getting vaccinated against the virus without parental consent. Gov. Kay Ivey signed the bills Friday.

Lawmakers worked into the night on compromises between Senate and House-passed versions of the bills. The road to final passage on both bills was bumpy in the week-long special session that was supposed to focus on voting district maps.

At times the legislation pitted the GOP-dominant Legislature against business groups in the state. Senate Bill 9 would allow employees to claim religious or medical exemptions to the COVID-19 vaccine through a standardized form given to employers. The law will sunset, or expire, in May 2023. Read more.

Earlier in the Legislature:

Legislature Wraps Redistricting Work, Sends Maps to Ivey