Alabama’s COVID-19 cases plateau, hospitalizations fall as future of mask mandate looms
The rate of new coronavirus cases in Alabama is holding steady at a rate far below its previous peak, and hospitalizations from the virus have continued to decrease in recent days as a decision on the state’s mask mandate rapidly approaches.
Alabama averaged 657 new COVID-19 cases each day for the last week. That average has held steady at slightly below 700 since February 20 after falling consistently for around five weeks. At one point in January, the state was averaging 3,087 new cases per day.
Hospitalizations have continued their dramatic decline since peaking in early January. As of Monday, 651 Alabamians were being treated for the virus in state hospitals. That is down 25% from the 862 patients one week ago and down 79% from the all-time high of 3,084 on January 11.
Per BamaTracker, a site that tracks and graphs coronavirus data provided by the Alabama Department of Public Health (ADPH), new cases are those confirmed in a laboratory environment. The seven-day average rises to 778 when including what officials term “probable” cases: those that result from rapid tests and other forms of virus detection.
Around 10% of new cases end up needing treatment in the hospital, according to statements made by Alabama State Health Officer Dr. Scott Harris.
When the mask order went into effect on July 16, Alabama was averaging 1,653 new cases per day, and 1,395 COVID-19 patients were in the state’s hospitals.
In percentage terms, Alabama’s new case average is 60% lower, and its number of hospitalized patients is 53% fewer than when the mask mandate was first implemented during a surge the state experienced in the summer of 2020.
The ordinance is set to expire at 5:00 p.m. on Friday, March 5. Governor Kay Ivey has not indicated whether she intends to extend the rule, which is the state’s primary remaining coronavirus precaution.
The Alabama Hospital Association is urging her to keep the measure in place, and federal health officials are recommending states do not yet relax the restrictions they have in place.
In previous months, the governor has called a press conference on the Wednesday or Thursday prior to the order’s planned Friday expiration to announce an extension.
After hinting in the late fall of 2020 that the mandate may be on its way out, Ivey maintained it was necessary as the state experienced an extreme spike in cases and hospitalizations over the holiday season.
A number of states have rolled back some amount of coronavirus restrictions, including mask mandates, during the dramatic fall in cases the United States has experienced in recent weeks.
Federal health officials such as CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky have asked states to keep their precautions in place, citing the increased infectiousness of new COVID-19 variants spreading across America.
In Alabama, the virus remains widespread during its recent decline: 58 of 67 counties in the state reported a new case on Tuesday.
Contrastingly, the percentage of coronavirus tests administered in the last two weeks coming back positive each day is down to 7.96%. Experts say the ideal range is 1% to 5%, but it has been as high as 22% in Alabama as recently as January.
An estimated 9,991 Alabamians have died from COVID-19 as of Tuesday morning. Of those, 7,840 have been confirmed as coronavirus-caused by ADPH employees, while 2,151 are classified have COVID-19 as their “probable” cause of death. Over the course of the pandemic, nearly all of the individuals listed as “probable” have eventually been confirmed as coronavirus deaths by ADPH.
A total of 617,768 individuals have received a dose of a coronavirus vaccine in Alabama, a figure set to be enhanced by the approval of a third vaccine product.
Of those, 301,256 have gotten both the required doses that are part of Pfizer and Moderna’s vaccines.
Henry Thornton is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can contact him by email: firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @HenryThornton95.