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COVID spreading, but deaths down

By Molly Breland

Alabama Daily News

Alabama’s top public health official says those with health risk factors should be concerned about the latest uptick in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations, which have also hit the Decatur area, but also had encouraging news about the virus.

“Now that we have vaccines, now that we have monoclonal antibodies that are effective, now that we have oral medications that are effective — and because the variant itself is a little less deadly on average — we are seeing that decoupling, if you will, from the case numbers and the number of deaths. That is the one fortunate thing,” said Dr. Scott Harris, Alabama’s state health officer, in a recent episode of Alabama Public Television’s “Capitol Journal.”

“If you’re somebody who is medically vulnerable because of your age or because of health problems and, particularly, if you’re unvaccinated, I don’t think the situation has changed that much for those folks,” he said. “For people who are fully vaccinated I think you can pretty much do what you need to do. If your community is seeing high numbers of transmission going on, then obviously you need to exercise caution and be careful about large groups of people.”

There were 661 people hospitalized statewide with the virus Tuesday, according to the Alabama Department of Public Health, up from 55 three months ago but well below the pandemic peak of more than 3,000. On Monday, Decatur Morgan Hospital had 14 COVID patients, including three in intensive care and one on a ventilator.

Positive COVID-19 tests are rising nationally because the new omicron subvariant labeled BA.5 is spreading quickly. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the subvariant is more infectious than previous strands and makes up about 65% of current COVID-19 cases. Despite hospitalizations and deaths rising, BA.5 appears to have milder symptoms than previous variants.

People carrying the virus have reported experiencing cold and flu-like symptoms that are frequently associated with COVID-19 including fever, sweats, runny nose, sore throat, fatigue and lingering congestion. Additionally, some have reported a loss of taste or smell.

ADPH characterizes Morgan, Lawrence and Limestone counties as having high community transmission levels. People in counties with high transmission levels should wear a mask indoors when in public, according to the department.

The CDC recommends that anyone 6 months and older get vaccinated to protect themselves. Those 12 years and older should also stay updated on their vaccination and get booster shots.