Let’s see that smile, Jefferson County.
As of Tuesday, the county has been classified as having a moderate rate of transmission of COVID-19 based on CDC guidelines, meaning persons who are fully vaccinated need not wear a mask in public, indoor settings.
The move to drop the classification from substantial reflects two main factors: the total number of new cases per 100,000 persons in the past seven days and the percentage of COVID nucleic acid amplification tests that have been positive over the past seven days, said Dr. Wesley Willeford, medical director of Disease Control for the Jefferson County Department of Health.
Willeford said Thursday that moderate transmission means, “We would be seeing between 10-49.99 new cases of Covid per 100,000 persons in the past seven days and our percent positive would be between 5-7.99%.”
Willeford said Jefferson County currently has a 4.1% positivity rate for COVID-19 cases and 45.1 cases of COVID-19 per 100,000 persons.
The no mask requirement in public indoor settings comes through guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. But it does not apply to those who have not yet been vaccinated.
Another caveat from the CDC is that persons who may be at higher risk for bad outcomes related to COVID-19 may still benefit from wearing a mask. Willeford describes those persons as older than 65 or who have weakened immune systems or other high-risk conditions.
The four levels of transmission are low, moderate, substantial and high, explained Dr. David Kimberlin, co-director of UAB and Children’s of Alabama’s pediatric division, during a press conference Wednesday.
“Everyone should check their county’s status on the ADPH dashboard online and celebrate where we are now,” Kimberlin said Wednesday.
But Kimberlin warned that if another virus variant surfaces, or rates rise for another reason, the public should return to wearing masks.
The loosened mask-wearing advice does not apply across the state.
Shelby County remains in the substantial category.
The only county in the low category is Barbour.
Other counties lowered to the moderate classification, along with Jefferson, are: Baldwin, Bibb, Bullock, Choctaw, Clay, Cleburne, Coffee, Dale, Escambia, Etowah, Geneva, Greene, Henry, Houston, Lee, Marshall, Mobile, Monroe, Montgomery, Morgan, Pike, Randolph, Russell, Sumter, Tuscaloosa and Washington.
The rest of the counties are ranked substantial or high transmission.
Overall in Alabama, 830,789 people have been diagnosed with COVID and 15,484 have died of the disease.
In other good news this week, deaths per day have started to decline and hospitalizations dropped below 500.
Read BirminghamWatch’s weekly analysis of the data: Alabama’s COVID Deaths at Lowest Level Since August.