Troublingly high numbers of hospitalizations from the coronavirus continue to mount across Alabama as many school systems delay their start dates or have chosen virtual instruction for the first weeks of the new school year.
According to the Alabama coronavirus database BamaTracker, the state’s hospitals have admitted an average of 165 COVID-19 cases per day for the last week.
That same average hovered around 30 per day for most of June.
On Wednesday, 1,547 Alabamians were reportedly in the hospital due to COVID-19.
UAB hospital tweeted that the 105 patients they are reporting as hospitalized for COVID-19 “are receiving in-hospital, bed-specific care and are either very sick, unable to get better, or potentially survive without medical attention and care.”
In slightly more positive news, the daily count of new coronavirus cases has fallen some in recent days from a high of over 2,000. However, the seven-day average of new cases remains at a disturbing 1,741 per day.
The distribution of the virus with Alabama remains widespread; 66 of Alabama’s 67 counties reported a new case of COVID-19 on Wednesday morning.
Hospitalizations are thought by scientists to generally lag the new case count by around two weeks, which would appear to indicate the current high number of patients in the hospital is due to individuals catching the virus during July 4 festivities.
Deaths from the coronavirus often follow hospitalizations by two to four weeks. Alabama reported 57 COVID-19 deaths on Wednesday, the highest ever one-day death number for the state.
Alabama has averaged 20 deaths from COVID-19 per day for the last week. The state’s total death toll is 1,325 individuals, with 39 more that are probable but have not yet been confirmed by the Alabama Department of Public Health.
A recent comprehensive review of 172 scientific studies backed up the CDC recommendation about the effectiveness of wearing masks and social distancing. Neither the study nor any respected expert has said that maks were 100% effective.
Jefferson County joined the City of Birmingham in requiring masks on June 29. The County had a seven-day average of 147 cases per day at that point, and then had a seven day average of 242 per day on July 14, after the mask mandate had been in effect for two weeks.
Jefferson County’s current seven-day average of new cases is 260 per day.
Governor Kay Ivey’s statewide mask mandate went into effect on July 16. Experts say any effect it has on reducing the caseload will not be known until the end of the month.
Many advocates for masks argued that a patchwork of local ordinances would be ineffective because of high rates of travel in and out of certain communities where masks were required.
Detractors from the idea of a statewide mandate argued that it was always better for local communities to make decisions on how to best protect themselves, and some rural counties remain at very low levels of coronavirus transmission.
Across the state, many large public school systems have announced plans to meet virtually for the first weeks of the school year or pushed back the start date for classes.
The fear, according to officials, is mainly for older teachers and the older relatives the kids would interact with.
Many studies have shown that young people are not at much risk from COVID-19 unless they have pre-existing conditions.
All three school systems in Madison County, including Huntsville City Schools, announced on Wednesday that they would only teach virtually for the first nine weeks of the school year. Across the three systems, there are 55,000 students.
The Mobile County School System, Alabama’s largest, announced earlier in the week that their school year would not start until September 1, and even then students will learn virtually for the first nine weeks of the year.
Montgomery County Schools announced Tuesday that they will educate online for the first nine weeks of the year as well, beginning on August 10.
Birmingham City Schools similarly announced on Wednesday that they would go online for the first nine weeks, beginning August 24.
However, the large systems in the most populous areas of Alabama are currently outliers when it comes to reopening decisions; the vast majority of school systems in the state plan to resume in-person instruction sometime in August.
A Facebook group called “Alabama Teachers Against COVID-19” has gathered nearly 5,700 members as of Wednesday afternoon. The group is reportedly very concerned about plans to put kids back into classrooms as soon as August.
Per reporting from Alabama Media Group and the Montgomery Advertiser, a selection of teachers who connected through the Facebook group are expected to demonstrate at the Alabama Capitol building on Thursday morning where they will voice their concerns with school reopening.