JeffCo Health Officer, Local Officials Discussing Mask Rules as Alabama’s New COVID Case Average Leaps Over 2,000 Per Day

As the daily average of new COVID cases topped 2,000 Thursday, Jefferson County Health Officer Dr. Mark Wilson said he has recommended to local officials that they consider universal mask use.

“I am very concerned about our sharply rising number of COVID-19 cases, the highly contagious nature of the Delta variant and the increasing burden on our hospitals,” said Wilson, who has the authority to issue a countywide mask mandate.

“I am having discussions with local elected officials and other stakeholders to consider ways we can help turn this around.”

Later in the day, the city of Birmingham announced on Facebook that it now will require face coverings for all employees and visitors to city owned-venues, under direction from Mayor Randall Woodfin. The applies to city offices, but also libraries, recreation centers and any other buildings controlled by the city.

The Alabama Department of Public Health reported Thursday that the number of overall infections since the pandemic began stands at 580,193, an increase of 2,730 cases for the day. The 7-day average now stands at 2,097.57 daily new cases, the first time that average has been above the 2,000 mark since Feb. 6.

The average has now increased by more than 17 times the recent low set July 6, almost double where the number stood a week ago and up by 166 over Wednesday’s average.

The longer term 14-day average continues its rapid climb as well, now at 1,615.36 per day. The average has increased almost tenfold since July 6 and has doubled in just eight days. It was Feb. 9 that the long-term average was last at this level.

COVID-related deaths, though, are staying at a fairly steady rate. Six additional deaths were reported Thursday, increasing the overall pandemic death toll to 11,516. The 7-day moving average is at 6.86 deaths per day, unchanged from Wednesday and at nearly the same level it’s been for the last month and a half. The 14-day average is at 5.50, also steady for the past month.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention this week updated its recommendations to say even fully vaccinated people should wear masks indoors because the Delta strain is much more virulent. Even the vaccinated can contract the disease, though usually in a milder form, and they may be able to spread the virus even if they develop no symptoms, according to Wilson and the CDC.

Wilson has recommended that everyone, vaccinated and unvaccinated, should wear masks indoors and in public spaces.

He singled out school teachers, staff, students and visitors who have been vaccinated to wear masks in schools to slow the spread of the virus. “And to assure the continuous in-person education for all our students,” Wilson said.

“Consideration should be given to universal mask use until the current surge in COVID-19 cases subsides.”

He also asked that all persons eligible for a vaccine get one, including children ages 12 and up, as soon as possible.

Wilson said he made the recommendations because of the uncontrolled spread of the virus in Alabama and the rest of the Southeast.

“The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that the Delta variant of COVID is at least two times easier to transmit from one person to another,” he added.

What a Difference a Month Makes: Average of New COVID Cases Increases 15-fold Since July 6