COVID Infections Top Levels Seen in February

Illustration, created at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), of the coronavirus. Source: CDC.

The number of new cases of COVID-19 continues to rise at faster rates in Alabama, and hospital beds continue to fill with patients suffering from the virus.

The Alabama Department of Public Health said Wednesday that 1,631 new cases were reported by hospitals and health care facilities across the state. It’s the third day in the past week that the number has topped the 1,300 mark and the highest daily number since early February, except for days when many previously unreported cases were sent by providers to the ADPH in what they call data dumps.

Wednesday’s high number pushed the 7-day moving average to 1,111.43 new cases per day, the highest that average has been since mid-February. Compared to the recent low average of 121 daily cases on July 6, the lowest 7-day average since April 2020, Wednesday’s average is more than nine times higher.

The 14-day average, which tends to smooth out sharp spikes and drops in the data stream, now stands at 788 cases per day. That’s nearly five times the low on July 6, and it’s the highest that average has been since March 6.

Jefferson County’s new case rates are also climbing. On Tuesday, 167 cases were reported, bringing the 7-day moving average to 108 per day. That’s almost seven times higher than the July 6 level of 16 cases per day.

In all, 563,943 Alabamians have been diagnosed with the disease since the pandemic began.

Dr. Rachael Lee, a UAB Hospital epidemiologist and an assistant professor in the Division of Infectious Diseases, said in a press conference Wednesday that the Delta variant of the coronavirus is present in “the vast majority” of new cases. “Delta variant is highly contagious, much more so than the virus in 2020,” Lee said.

Hospitalizations are rapidly increasing, as well, as COVID patients jumped to 602 on Wednesday. That’s a hike of more than 50% in just five days and greater than 3½ times the 166 cases on June 20. That day marked the lowest number of hospitalizations since two weeks after records began to be kept in March 2020.

Lee said she agreed with comments made by her colleague, Division of Infectious Diseases Director Dr. Jeanne Marrazzo, who said Wednesday in an interview on CNN that the latest spike in cases is “like the beginning of a wildfire.”

“What we know about wildfires is that they are unpredictable,” Lee said. “Sometimes we can contain them and sometimes we cannot. Our concern among the hospitals around town is that if we are at the beginning of a surge, are we going to see what we saw back in January, which affects all of the patients regardless of whether or not they are vaccinated. If we have to reduce the number of surgeries and increase the number of COVID beds that we need to care for these patients, that affects your loved ones and … yourself in getting the health care that we need.”

The death rate continues to stay low at the moment. There were two deaths reported Wednesday, bring the overall total to 11,462. But the 7-day average, which had risen to 8.29 as of Tuesday, fell to 3.29 Wednesday because a high daily report of 37 deaths on July 14 dropped out of the averaging period. The 14-day average is at 5.36, largely within the range of the past month.

Jefferson County had three deaths on Tuesday and eight for the previous week.