Dropping COVID Case Rates Ease Pressure on Alabama Health Care System

The surge of COVID-19 that plagued Alabama and the nation over the summer continued its decline over the past week as summer gives way to fall.

The number of new cases reported each day by the Alabama Department of Public Health has fallen by more than 60% since the beginning of October. The 7-day moving average fell to 784 on Wednesday, a drop of 12% in the past seven days. The longer-term 14-day average fell to 838.57, a decrease of almost two-thirds from Oct. 1.

Since the Delta-induced summer surge peaked Sept. 1 with a 7-day average of 5,538, the new-case numbers have tumbled by more than 85%. The current level is still well above the low set just after Independence Day, 3½ months ago, when the average bottomed out at 121 cases per day.

The steady decrease is also shown in the state’s hospitalization numbers. Tuesday’s report from the Alabama Hospital Association showed 652 beds occupied by COVID patients, with 78% of them unvaccinated. Of the 1,355 intensive care unit beds occupied, 230 of those held COVID patients.

The rapid drop in hospitalizations has eased pressure on health providers at all levels, especially hospitals and their ICU staffs. The current total is more than three-fourths below the peak of 2,890 inpatients on Sept. 1, when overloaded ICU’s caused some non-emergency procedures to be delayed.

The COVID-19 death rate has not fallen as quickly as other measures, though, and has stayed most level throughout October. The 7-day average Wednesday was 47.29 deaths per day, in a range between 45 and 55 that has been prevalent over the past two weeks. The 14-day average is 49.93, falling below 50 for the first time in a month.

Over the course of the pandemic, 815,989 cases of the coronavirus have been reported by ADPH. On Oct. 14, the pandemic death toll passed the 15,000 mark and reached 15,311 Wednesday.

Positivity rates — the percentage of COVID-19 tests that show a positive result —also are heading downward, with just 23 of Alabama’s 67 counties classified as “high,” which means the rates are 10% or more. Washington County in south Alabama is the first in several weeks to have a “low” rate of less than 5%. The state’s overall rate is 7.5%.

Jefferson County reported a 5.1% positivity rate, with 416 new cases in the past seven days and three deaths in the past two weeks. Over the course of the pandemic, the county has had 114,462 total cases and 1,915 deaths.

Shelby County’s positivity rate is at 7.2%, with 168 new cases over the past week and three deaths in the past two weeks. The county has cumulative pandemic totals of 37,488 cases and 348 deaths to date.

As of Tuesday, 44% of Alabama’s residents have taken the full vaccine regimen, compared to 57% for the entire country.

In Jefferson County, 51% of all residents are now full vaccinated, the fourth-highest percentage of all counties. Choctaw County’s 57% tops the list.

BirminghamWatch uses data from the ADPH as published on its online dashboard for its analyses. Additional information comes from the Alabama Hospital Association, which publishes updates each weekday on its Twitter account, and from vaccination data by the federal Centers for Disease Control.