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Health officer: State COVID hospitalizations are down

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Hospitalizations for COVID-19 are down two-thirds across the state and positive cases continue to fall according to State Health Officer Dr. Scott Harris.

During his weekly teleconference call Friday morning, Harris said that there are just over 1,000 COVID patients in Alabama hospitals but double-digit deaths are continuing on a daily basis. Two weeks ago there were 1,731 hospitalizations in the state. 

Harris said the number of deaths in the state on Thursday was 81, Wednesday had 63 and Tuesday had 71.  

 Harris said that the total of Alabamians who have died from COVID is since the pandemic began is 14,756, however other unconfirmed deaths would push that number over 15,000.

It was recently announced that one in 500 Americans have died from COVID, but according to Harris using that same formula one in 330 Alabamians have died from the disease. 

On the bright side, Harris said, Alabama has passed a COVID milestone.

“Over 2 million Alabamaians are now fully vaccinated,” Harris said adding the figure is more than half of the eligible population. 

“We’re happy about that number. That number still lags a lot of the country, however — we have a lot of room for improvement,” he said. 

Alabama is now ahead of eight states in terms of people who have gotten just one shot and are ahead of three states in terms of people who are fully vaccinated. 

According to Harris, an FDA advisory committee will meet next week to discuss booster shots for the Moderna and the  Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

On Oct. 26 a FDA advisory committee will discuss pediatric COVID-19 vaccines for the children 5-11 years of age. Vaccines have already been approved for children and teens age 12 and up. 

Harris said those in the 12-17 age group are the least vaccinated group.

“That’s very unfortunate. We continue to see a number of kids who are infected,” Harris said. 

Harris said that kids are vaccinated in accord with whether the parents are vaccinated.

“If we’re ever going to really see this disease subside to levels that are more manageable than we’re seeing now we’re going to have to have a significant number of young people vaccinated,” he said. 

“I do think we’re going to live with COVID from now on — it seems very likely that it’s never going to vanish. We’re going to have to deal with it,” Harris said. 

Harris said the Thanksgiving holiday last year was the cause of a “big outbreak” and he urged the unvaccinated to get their shots before the holidays.

 “If you go and get vaccinated in the next week you will have time to be fully vaccinated and protected before the Thanksgiving holidays. Next week is the time to do that, please consider doing that before the holidays,” Harris said.

According to Harris, U.S. Health and Human Services studied the effectiveness of the vaccine in the senior population, which has a 80 percent vaccination rate.

Harris said the vaccines prevented 100,000 hospitalizations and 40,000 deaths. 

Harris said the state is awaiting guidance about  Merck’s anti-viral molnupiravir pill which has been proven effective for COVID patients and is similar to Remdesivir, which is taken intravenously.  

Harris also encouraged people to get the flu shot which can be given at the same time as the COVID vaccine.