MONTGOMERY, Ala. – State Health Officer Dr. Scott Harris and Chief Medical Officer Dr. Mary McIntyre this week cautioned Alabamians about rising rates of COVID-19 and asked them to be vigilant during the days ahead. The spread of the virus has resulted in the greatest increases in hospitalizations since July, and for the past six weeks there have been at least 1,000 new cases per day. In July, Alabama hospitals were at maximum capacity.
The statistics are alarming—there have been more than 230,000 individual cases in Alabama so far with 1.5% of cases resulting in death (3,459). This is about 15 times the death rate from influenza. In seniors age 75 and older the risk is far greater.
“We are not going to get ‘a do-over,’ but there are things you can do to stop the unchecked spread in many parts of Alabama,” Harris said. “Please think about it and take responsibility for your behavior.”
As an example for others, McIntyre said her family is limiting its normally large Thanksgiving gathering to a total of seven people from two households. Before each person enters, temperatures are checked, and everyone wears facial coverings unless eating. Everyone uses hand sanitizer upon entry and prior to eating. Only one person will touch all serving utensils, they will use disposable tableware, and households will eat at separate tables to ensure they are separated by more than 6 feet. Other family members will celebrate virtually from other locations.
Encouraging COVID-19 vaccine development efforts continue. Pharmaceutical companies Pfizer, Moderna and AstraZeneca have announced they have developed promising vaccines that are safe and highly effective. The Food and Drug Administration Advisory Committee will evaluate them and make recommendations, the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices will review, and Operation Warp Speed will ship and preposition vaccine shipments to avoid unnecessary delays.
Input to determine priorities of when groups will receive vaccine has come from a committee of 50-60 stakeholders from across the state and the Governor’s COVID-19 Task Force. Alabama’s vaccination allocation plan defines populations and the order in which they will receive vaccine in four phases. The plan can be viewed at www.alabamapublichealth.gov/covid19/assets/adph-covid19-vaccination-allocation-plan.pdf. Vaccine will be free for all Americans.
There is also good news in therapeutics for non-hospitalized patients with mild or moderate confirmed cases of COVID-19. Eli Lilly and Company’s investigational monoclonal antibody therapeutic, bamlanivimab, received emergency use authorization from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Bamlanivimab has already been used in Montgomery. Close to 40 Alabama hospitals have placed orders for it, and a supply is expected to be delivered this week.
The public is reminded to protect themselves and others from COVID-19 by staying at home as much as possible, wearing facial coverings as much as is practical, washing hands, avoiding large gatherings, maintaining good hygiene, socially distancing, and knowing their COVID-19 status. Health officials urge everyone to protect vulnerable people from COVID-19.