In a pandemic-centered discussion on Thursday hosted by the Alabama Medical Association, UAB pediatric infectious disease expert Dr. David Kimberlin sounded the alarm about the state’s upcoming battle with the COVID-19 Delta variant, saying he believes Alabama is “facing a catastrophe.”
Kimberlin was accompanied in the livestreamed conversation by State Health Officer Dr. Scott Harris in discussing virus mitigation efforts as it relates to children returning to school this fall. The state’s top medical chief warned of the recent increase in new cases, which he said began early this month.
Harris described the state’s current situation as “unprecedented,” referencing the rate at which hospitalizations are increasing.
“Starting around the first part of July is when we started seeing numbers creep up,” said Harris. “We’ve actually had well over 1,000 cases a day for the past eight or nine days, in fact, greater than 2,500 cases a day over the last three days. That’s really concerning to us. Those numbers have accelerated so quickly – that’s been reflected now in the number of patients we see in Alabama hospitals. I will tell you that we’ve always seen this indicator of having case numbers go up, and then a week or two later we see hospitalizations go up, and then sad to say a week or two later we see the number of deaths go up.”
Kimberlin, in response to Harris’s assessment of the recent case spike, struck a distressing tone toward the state’s outlook concerning the variant.
“We are really at a different place in this pandemic than we’ve been before and it’s not a good place,” said Dr. Kimberlin. “We’re seeing it some in children and I’m really, really – I’m scared. I was uncomfortable last year, I am scared right now for what lies in front of us in respect to our children. We are facing, as they say, an ‘unprecedented’ period of this pandemic.”
The pediatric infectious disease specialist expressed his concern over the state’s low vaccination numbers, as he took a critical posture toward those who have declined the shot and urged Alabamians to take the virus seriously.
“Now, the good news is that we have knowledge and we have tools to be able to get our way through this,” said Kimberlin. “The tool is vaccination. We need to get more people vaccinated. I think Dr. Harris was humble in the way he said it [but] I’m going to be a little more critical. I think the product is out there for a whole lot of Alabamians, and yet some folks, a majority of Alabamians, are not getting it.”
In making an appeal to Alabama’s dense religious population, Kimberlin invoked the Golden Rule as a reason to become vaccinated for the safety of others.
He added, “That’s not the way Alabama likes to treat our neighbors. You know, we are a faith-focused state and it’s a wonderful state to live in, and much of what is sort of the guiding principle is the Golden Rule: ‘Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.'”
Kimberlin went on to advise that masks should be mandatory in schools. He made an impassioned plea for parents to demand such, and made the assertion that some who are opposed to mask mandates are “misinformed.”
“Call your superintendent and call your school principal and tell them how uncomfortable you are, and tell them that you want everyone masked,” he stated. “There’s a lot of people out there that have true misinformation on what masking does. People say that it suffocates people – it does not suffocate anybody. They’re out there spreading it and they’re loud and they’re mad. And so the superintendent and the principals and the teachers, they hear those loud mad voices. We need to present loving concerned voices. We are the majority and I am convinced of that.”
In concluding his remarks, Kimberlin noted, “I am doom and gloom, and I think we’re facing a catastrophe.”
Dylan Smith is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @DylanSmithAL