The effects of the holiday season on the spread of COVID-19 may be slowing down in Alabama.
In BirminghamWatch’s weekly analysis of COVID data across the state, the number of new daily cases has fallen significantly since peaking on Jan. 10, and fewer hospital beds have been occupied by those infected with the virus, as well. Death counts from the virus remain high, though many recent reports are from deaths that occurred as far back as November.
The numbers come on the heels of Gov. Kay Ivey’s announcement Thursday morning that she would extend until March 5 her order that face masks must be worn in public places. The new order remains unchanged from the previous one, which was to expire on Friday.
The 7-day moving average of new cases per day has fallen from a record high of 4,260.86 on Jan. 10 to 2,564.71 on Thursday, a drop of 40%. The 14-day average, which more effectively smooths out choppy data that sometimes occurrs, decreased by a slower rate – from 4,019.43 on Jan. 10 to 3,093.29 on Thursday, a 23% fall.
Likewise, hospitalizations have gone down from their peak, which occurred just after the New Year’s long weekend, and the crisis level of bed availability at major urban hospitals has lessened a bit. After seeing a record of 3,081 hospital beds filled with COVID-infected patients on Jan. 5, the number has dropped to 2,522 as of Wednesday. That’s a reduction of 18% in 15 days. The 7-day moving average, which peaked at 3,011.71 on Jan. 11, has since dropped by 9% to 2,740.14.
Death reports remain at some of the highest levels since the pandemic begin, however, and the 14-day moving average set a new record Thursday of 92.79 reported deaths per day. The 7-day average has been up and down like a roller coaster, due in part to several days in mid-January when the Alabama Department of Public Health reported a number of additional deaths as part of a review of old data, some as much as two months old, followed by a total of just seven deaths reported over the Martin Luther King Day three-day weekend, when many death reports were not sent to the ADPH. As of Thursday, the 7-day average stood at 62.0, after reaching a new high of 123.57 a week before; the latter number was inflated by the backlog of old death reports.
The total state death toll since the pandemic began surpassed 6,000 on Jan. 15, and currently stands at 6,379.
Positivity rates have fallen steadily over the past few weeks, as well, from a 14-day percentage of 24.08% on Jan. 7, when the ADPH recalculated its figures because of a mathematical error, to 18.11% on Thursday. Counties in the northern third of the state continue to report higher positivity rates, with all but three counties above 20%. Similar rates are now being seen in most of the Wiregrass Region, in southeast Alabama.
Jefferson County had 2,681 new COVID cases and 49 deaths reported in the past seven days. Shelby County reported 681 new cases and nine additional deaths, which brought the county’s cumulative total to 100 since the pandemic began.
The effort to vaccinate Alabamians continues as most areas are now giving the first of two shots to those ages 75 and higher, as well as to first responders. During Ivey’s press conference Thursday, State Health Officer Dr. Mark Harris said that 202,643 of the 446,150 vaccine doses that the state has on hand have been administered so far.
During his inauguration Wednesday, President Joe Biden spoke of his plan to give 100 million shots during the first 100 days of his new administration.
BirminghamWatch compiles its analyses based on data published by the ADPH daily on its COVID-19 home page.
The list of counties with numbers of cases, individuals tested and deaths.