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Alabama sees COVID hospitalization plateau, at least temporarily, Harris says

Alabama State Health Officer Scott Harris discusses safety of COVID-19 vaccines in Sept. 3...
Alabama State Health Officer Scott Harris discusses safety of COVID-19 vaccines in Sept. 3 media briefing.
Published: Sep. 10, 2021 at 10:39 AM EDT|Updated: Sep. 10, 2021 at 7:42 PM EDT
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MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WSFA) - Alabama State Health Officer Dr. Scott Harris declined to wade into the political fray of federal vaccination mandates Friday but continued to urge residents to get their shots, saying they are the best way to avoid contracting COVID-19 and hospitalization.

Harris, who prefers to stick to hard numbers related to the ongoing pandemic, opened his weekly news briefing laying out where the state currently stands regarding cases, hospitalizations, and deaths.

“It’s still a very difficult time in the state right now,” he said, adding that “we are still struggling with a lot of high case numbers each day with a lot of people in our hospitals, particularly our demand for ICU beds continues to be a significant issue.”

Harris’ updates came a short time after the state’s health and education departments updated their K-12 COVID-19 data dashboard, including information from 138 of the state’s 143 school systems.

The number of COVID-19 infections among students and staff for the week stood at 8,428 cases, down from 9,195 a week earlier despite only 84 systems reporting. But Harris noted that, compared to the same week a year ago, schools have seen cases surge by 605%.

Harris noted the importance of keeping kids in face-to-face instruction and said about 90% of schools across the state require universal masking.

The Alabama Department of Public Health noted Friday another drop in hospitalizations to 2,620. That’s off from the recent high reached on Sept. 1 of 2,890.

Harris said the state’s hospitals are seeing something of a plateau, with the number of inpatients dropping below 2,700 for the first time in a couple of weeks, though he admitted that could be temporary.

On Thursday, ADPH’s Dr. Karen Landers said people with the delta variant have symptoms and test positive sooner than previous strains. She said Delta shows up as early as three days after exposure, which means Labor Day holiday cases may already be happening.

Harris said hospital ICU bed deficits continue to pose a significant risk to treatment, with about 70 people currently waiting for a bed.

About 4,800 coronavirus cases were reported to the Alabama Department of Public Health on Thursday, along with 53 deaths, Harris said, adding to the seriousness of the ongoing health crisis. Alabama has continued to report double-digit deaths daily for more than a month.

Federal help continues at two hospitals with teams assessing the needs of five more. Staffing remains at “crucial levels,” Harris added.

Alabama continues to see the number of people getting vaccinated increase, according to the latest data. The state is currently ahead of eight other states when accounting for residents who have had one or more vaccination shots.

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