Tag: coronavirus

COVID Pandemic Closed Down Businesses, Schools and Sports and Brought a Sea Change for Health Care

Two years ago Sunday – the morning of Friday, March 13 – the first case of COVID-19 was diagnosed in Alabama, and by the end of the day the state had a total of six positive cases.

Schools that day announced they would be closing for what they thought would be 2½ weeks to let the virus pass by. Nursing homes closed to all visitors and the first drive-thru testing location in the county opened in Vestavia Hills.

That was just two days after the World Health Organization declared that the spread of what then was called the novel coronavirus had reached pandemic levels, a declaration that came three months after the first cases were reported in the city of Wuhan, China. It would grow into a global health crisis on a scale not seen by the world in more than 100 years.

In other countries, people already were on mandatory shelter-in-place orders, but the change that would catch the attention of a broad swath of Americans wasn’t that. It was a change in a basketball game.

The National Basketball Association hastily called off a game after officials found out that Utah Jazz player Rudy Gobert had tested positive for the coronavirus, setting off a chain of events that resulted in the suspension of all NBA play.

As COVID spread in early 2020, health officials in Alabama had to move quickly to try to stop the outbreak.

Nursing homes were among the first institutions to close down, and for months no visitors were allowed as America’s elderly became the first sacrifices to the pandemic.

At first, health officials moved to limit public gatherings to fewer than 500 people, then days later the limit was reduced to 25. Gov. Kay Ivey put in place orders that shut down most nonessential businesses, and schools followed suit; classrooms via online broadcasts such as Zoom became the norm. Entire families stayed under the same roof day in and out as children attended class remotely and their parents either worked from home or had no job to go to.

High school sports were shut down for the rest of the 2020 spring sports season, and the football season was affected later in the year. Some schools opted out of play entirely, while weekly lists of scores regularly noted numerous games forfeited because of COVID outbreaks.

Places of worship were forced to cancel in-person services, and attending church via online video became the norm.
As of now, the U.S. has endured three distinct surges over the past two years. Vaccinations have helped curb cases, but the threat is not yet over. Read more.

COVID-19’s Stranglehold on Alabama Lightens

Jefferson County has dropped back into the moderate category for risk of community COVID-19 transmission as instances of the viruses have lessened across Alabama.

Only eight counties remain in the high-risk category and 12 are at substantial risk, under the state’s risk classifications. Seven have dropped to the low-risk category, according to the Alabama Department of Public Health’s COVID data and surveillance dashboard. The state as a whole is classified as being at moderate risk for community transmission.

The state’s positivity rate, or the rate of COVID-19 tests that have been returned positive in the past week, has dropped to 5.9%, and Jefferson County’s positivity rate is now 4.4%. Both topped 40% a few weeks ago. Read more.

Repeating Pattern on Steroids: Spikes in Omicron Numbers Similar to Earlier COVID-19 Surges but Dropping Much More Quickly

The big spike in new daily cases of the omicron variant of COVID-19 is now being followed with an equally fast drop, while death numbers are rising roughly four two six weeks after cases reached new heights.

To those who have been following the rise and fall of numbers during the pandemic, this should sound familiar. Omicron data is following much of the same patterns established when the original version of COVID, sometimes referred to as the alpha variant, spread throughout the world in late 2020 and early 2021. That pattern repeated during the summer as the delta variant spiked, as well.

The omicron surge reached its peak Jan. 22, when the 7-day moving average of new cases topped out at 13,410 cases per day. That’s more than 2½ times the previous record of 5,538 set by delta reached on Sept. 1, 2021, and more than triple the highest average during the original surge on Jan. 10 of last year.

In both of the earlier surges, the averages made steady declines over the following 10 to 13 weeks. After the alpha surge peak, 7-day averages fell by more than 90% and were down to 121 per day just after Independence Day. For delta, the averages sank by 95% just after Thanksgiving Day, then the case numbers started to increase again as omicron became the prevalent strain.

The rise of omicron cases has been about the same in duration as the previous surges, but the decline is quicker. From the peak just 18 days ago, the 7-day average had dropped to 3,533 as of Wednesday, a fall of almost three-fourths. Read more.

Alabama COVID Hospitalizations Multiply More Than Tenfold Since Thanksgiving, Closing in on Pandemic Highs

The recent spike in omicron-derived COVID-19 cases has far exceeded any other new-case numbers since the pandemic began in early 2020. Omicron often has had symptoms that are mild or even non-existent, keeping victims out of hospital beds — until the new year arrived.

Since then, admissions of patients with COVID have skyrocketed, whether the virus was the primary problem or was found when a patient sought treatment for another issue. Across Alabama, hospitals report 2,946 patients who are COVID-positive as of Tuesday, more than 10 times the 271 patients reported on Thanksgiving Day.

The current totals are approaching the record for the pandemic set Jan. 11, 2021, when 3,074 inpatients were positive for the coronavirus. The highest total during the delta surge was 2,890 on Sept. 1; the omicron surge total passed that mark Tuesday. Read more.

JeffCo to Spend $200K to Set Up COVID Testing and Vaccination Site in the Cutoff

The Jefferson County Commission on Thursday approved spending $200,000 in relief funds to establish a COVID-19 testing and vaccination site to service the Bessemer Cutoff area.

Commissioners subsequently approved a resolution for additional testing/vaccination sites as recommended by the Jefferson County Department of Health.

“We want to make sure that testing is available throughout Jefferson County and that the citizens are best served by the actions of the commission,” said President Jimmie Stephens, who represents the Cutoff. “We want to make sure that if they want to be tested, if they want a vaccination, there is a convenient testing site where they can get to.”

Stephens said the county serves many residents, some of whom are affirmed. He said mass testing sites may be a 20- or 30-minute drive for some residents. Read more.

UAB Doc: COVID ‘Not Going Away’

The current surge in omicron cases is expected to last another two to three weeks, but that does not mean the virus is going away, a UAB epidemiologist said Tuesday.

Dr. Suzanne Judd, professor and epidemiologist in the UAB School of Public Health, said she doesn’t know when the next surge in COVID-19 will come, but she’s pretty sure we’ll have one.

People do not develop lasting immunity to COVID when they either get the virus or get vaccinated, partly because the virus mutates so easily.

“I think it’s a pretty good indication that this one is not going away. we continue to see surges with new variants, and that’s likely to be what we’ll continue to see in the future,” Judd said. “So, herd immunity is probably not possible with this one, not the type of herd immunity where we never see the virus again. This one is where we’re probably going to see it pop up from time to time with regular surges.” Read more.

Alabama Breaks the 1 Million Mark in COVID-19 Cases

Sixteen thousand six hundred forty-one of the state’s residents have died from the disease, according to data from the Alabama Department of Public Health’s coronavirus dashboard.

The highly contagious omicron variant has fueled the recent rise in cases, although the more deadly delta variant is still hanging around in the state.

In one bright note, doctors have reason to hope cases of the omicron variant will ease off in the next couple of weeks. The variant is so virulent that it essentially burns itself out, infecting so many people in a community that it has nowhere to go. Read more.