Birmingham area at high risk of COVID transmission
Every county in the Birmingham metropolitan area except Blount has been moved into the high risk category for COVID-19 transmission.
Jefferson County’s positivity rate has increased and now stands at 25%, according to the Alabama Department of Public Health, and the county has averaged 291 new cases per day for the past seven days. Hospital admissions in the county are up somewhat, with 10 more patients than last week, an increase of 2%.
The strip of high-risk counties for transmission means residents should exercise extra caution, including making sure their vaccines are up-to-date and wearing masks if they are at high risk of contracting the virus, a said Jefferson County Health Department physician Dr. Wesley Willeford. director of disease control. He said health officials no longer see the need to issue warrants as they did in 2020.
Willeford said part of the reason for the rise in cases is that the immunity people developed during the winter peak of the virus began to wear off in mid-May, when the level of transmission started to increase. Willeford said five months is about the average time it takes for immunity to wear off after exposure or vaccination.
“The decline (in immunity) as well as the appearance of new variants seemed to coincide with the start of the increase in cases,” he said.
ADPH Northern District Medical Officer Wes Stubblefield added that the rise in cases can also be attributed to more people gathering together, especially indoors.
The question is how long transmission rates will continue to rise and when they will peak, which Willeford predicted in a month to six weeks.
“We don’t know, but we will continue to see it for a while, but at least we don’t see severe forms of the virus,” Stubblefield said.
He said the Food and Drug Administration is expected to discuss the possibility of a new vaccine for the original virus and a second specific to omicron variants next week.
Counties other than Jefferson with high transmission rates are Baldwin, Bibb, Cullman, Escambia, Henry, Madison, Shelby, St. Clair and Walker, according to ADPH.
Statewide, there had been an average of 1,581 new COVID cases reported each day for the past 14 days as of Thursday, a 55% increase over the period, according to the Centers for Disease Control.
Stubblefield said there are 350 patients hospitalized with COVID statewide, but added, “That’s just a fraction. when the number was once up to 1,500 a day.