By TODD STACY, Alabama Daily News
MONTGOMERY, Ala. – The number of Alabamians hospitalized with COVID-19 stood at 703 Sunday, down more than 2,200 patients from the omicron peak of 2,961 on January 25.
The moving positivity rate, which tracks the level of transmission, sits at 6.6%, down from 10.6% last week and more than 62% in January.
Asked if the encouraging numbers meant the state has made it through the omicron wave, Dr. Scott Harris, the state’s public health officer, said he is optimistic that is the case.
“I think we can probably say that. We’re still seeing 1,000 to 1,200 new cases every day, but the hospital numbers are definitely headed in the right direction and that’s what we’re most concerned about. Most people who don’t do well with COVID are the ones who end up going to the hospital first and then they linger a while and, unfortunately, may not survive. So, as long as the hospital numbers are decreasing that’s a really good sign. We hope it stays that way.”
Harris said there is some concern about BA.2, a sub-variant of omicron that is believed to be even more contagious but, like its parent, has milder symptoms than earlier COVID variants. The mutation has been identified in Alabama in the past week.
“It’s probably not any more deadly than omicron, which is good. We know that omicron is milder overall than what we’ve seen with delta and other strains. Milder, no mild. So, it’s not worse in terms of causing disease. It is several times more infectious and there are a few countries in the world that have seen BA.2 before we have here that have now identified it as the predominant variant in the country.”
Asked if Alabamians should be concerned about another virus spike that fills hospitals, Harris said natural immunity will help some for a time but that vaccines were the best bet for avoiding sickness and death.
“Because we’ve had so many people who have been infected recently, they hopefully will have some protection on board, at least for a few weeks or a few months. We continue, of course, to try to emphasize vaccination. And vaccination still seems to be an effective way to prevent serious illness and death.
“If BA2 is still circulating three or four or six months from now and we still haven’t done a better job of getting people vaccinated, there’s going to be a lot of concern that we could see another surge.”
Dr. Harris’ comments begin at 33:20.