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Alabama saw record COVID cases in August, wave now reaching northern counties

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Alabama added more new COVID-19 cases in August than in any month since the pandemic began -- and the surge is moving north within the state.

The delta variant pushed last month’s case count over 114,000 here, more than tripling the total from July. August’s total case count was about 2,400 higher than the previous record, set in December of 2020.

Alabama added more new cases in August than the previous five months combined, according to data from the Alabama Department of Public Health.

Throughout August, ADPH reported large daily increases in new COVID-19 cases nearly every day. Early in the month, toward the beginning of the state’s delta surge, the bulk of that outbreak came in south Alabama, in counties like Mobile and Baldwin on the coast, and Houston County in the state’s Wiregrass region.

Now that’s starting to change.

The state’s latest surge is moving north, spreading into counties throughout the state. Many of the hardest hit counties remain in the south, but the surge is evening out. There are now 15 counties in Alabama averaging at least 10 new cases per 10,000 people per day over the last two weeks. On Aug. 20, there were 10. At the start of August there were none.

Alabama also saw big increases in virus hospitalizations throughout August. There were 1,451 COVID patients being treated in state hospitals on Aug. 1. As of the 31st, that number had nearly doubled, up to 2,866.

Delta has pushed many of the state’s hospitals to the brink -- several ran out of ICU beds during the course of the month. The result was more people in need of critical care throughout the state than there were total ICU beds.

But the rate hospitalizations have been increasing appears to have leveled off slightly in the last part of the month. On Aug. 11, Alabama was adding a net of 91 new COVID patients per day to the state’s hospitals. As of Tuesday, that number had fallen to around 11.

Hospitalizations are not falling yet. But since Aug. 18, the total number of COVID hospitalizations in Alabama has increased by just 135 patients, or just under 10 per day.

Meanwhile, Alabama’s vaccine rate continued to tick up slightly over the last month, though it didn’t speed up quite as fast as it did in July.

The state is no longer last in the nation in vaccination rate -- 38.1 percent of Alabama’s total population is now fully vaccinated against COVID-19, compared to 37.7 percent in Mississippi, according to the latest data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.