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.

Only two counties already are in the low classification, Henry and Sumter, where the positivity numbers are near and at 0, respectively. Jefferson County remains in the moderate classification.

Overall, new cases for the state continue on a downward trend, with 3,532 new cases reported in the 7-day period ending Thursday, an average of 504.57 per day. That’s the lowest level for the average since July 12, when case counts were just starting to skyrocket as the delta variant of the COVID virus began to attack the United States in earnest. The 14-day average is down to 523.21 per day, the lowest since July 16.

COVID-related deaths have fluctuated within a narrow range over the past three weeks. There were 200 deaths during the week ending Thursday, an average of 28.57 per day, compared to a 7-day average of 35.71 the week before. The longer-term 14-day average, which smooths out shorter-term moves in data, is now at 32.14 deaths per day, also fluctuating in a range mainly in the 30’s.

The cumulative total of COVID cases in Alabama is now up to 838,114, while the death toll stands at 15,934.

Hospitalizations Down

Hospitalizations of COVID patients have fallen below the 300 mark for the first time in exactly four months. The Alabama Hospital Association reported 296 inpatients as of Thursday. That’s a reduction of 21.3% over the previous week and down 90% from the peak of 2,890 inpatients on Sept. 1.

The battle between President Joe Biden and a group of mostly Republican states continues, as attorneys general have filed multiple lawsuits seeking to halt Biden’s mandate that all federal contractors — loosely defined as any organization that performs work for the federal government — must require all employees to be vaccinated or be fired.

Last week, Biden moved the deadline for vaccinations under the mandate from Dec. 8 to Jan. 4, after contractors and employee unions pressed for the delay. Defense One, a website for news related to the defense industry, reported that leaving the original deadline in place would cause thousands of workers to lose their jobs just as the Christmas holidays arrive and would delay weapons manufacturing for the military.

The new deadline comes on the same day as that of a mandate from the federal Occupational Health and Safety Administration, which issued new rules requiring that all companies with 100 or more employees either require those workers to vaccinate or submit to weekly COVID tests.

BirminghamWatch uses data for its analyses provided by the ADPH and AlaHA.