Hospitalizations, deaths from COVID-19 rise in Alabama

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MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) – The number of people in Alabama hospitals with COVID-19 – as well as the number of daily deaths from the disease – are rising as health officials expressed concern about the trajectory of the pandemic headed into both the flu and holiday season.

“Clearly, we are moving upward compared to where we were even a month ago but certainly compared to where we were two months ago. It’s not as sharp an increase as we see right now in other parts of the country, especially the upper Midwest, Great Plains states, certainly the Midwest, but it’s concerning to us,” State Health Officer Scott Harris said Tuesday.

Harris said the Alabama numbers have been going in the wrong direction for about a month.

“I think there are a number of reasons. It may be that the best explanation is that all across society people are getting back to sort of normal activity. People aren’t maybe being as concerned with social distancing or mask wearing as they were a few months ago.” He said the state has seen outbreaks associated with workplaces, a work release center, weddings and a few in schools.

Alabama ranked 27th in the nation for new cases per capita over the last two weeks, according to researchers at Johns Hopkins University. The seven-day rolling average of daily deaths in Alabama has risen over the past two weeks from 11 deaths per day on Oct. 26 to 15.86 deaths per day on Nov. 9.

Alabama Department of Public Health statistics showed 1,206 people were hospitalized Tuesday with the disease, an increase of nearly 400 people over the last month.

The state is still far below the summer numbers when about 1,600 people were hospitalized at a time in late July and early August when the pandemic was at its worst in the state after the Fourth of July holiday.

“What I’m concerned about is the trend,” said Dr. Don Williamson, the former longtime state health officer who now heads the Alabama Hospital Association. “We’re beginning to climb at a much more rapid rate.”

At least two school systems recently announced a move to virtual classes because of cases within the school and trouble finding substitutes to fill in for teachers and staff.

Attalla City Schools in Etowah County announced they were moving to online classes for the next two weeks. “This decision is based on staff illness, contact tracing, and limited availability of substitutes. Student case numbers remain low,” the school system said in its announcement.

Fayette County Schools also announced a move to virtual classes for one week because of the number of quarantined students, teachers and bus drivers as well as a lack of substitutes.

Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey this summer announced a statewide mask order which health officials credited with a drop in cases.

Ivey last week extended a statewide mask order into December but lifted occupancy limits on stores and restaurants in the hopes of allowing retailers to make up economic ground during the holiday shopping season.

Since the pandemic began in Alabama, more than 200,000 people have tested positive for the disease and more than 3,100 have died.

The illness causes only mild to moderate symptoms for most people, but it can be deadly for the elderly and people with other, serious health problems.

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Follow AP news coverage of the coronavirus pandemic at http://apnews.com/VirusOutbreak and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak.

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