Alabama health officials fear post-July 4 coronavirus surge will mimic Memorial Day one

Published 7:55 am Saturday, July 4, 2020

After a surge in coronavirus cases following Memorial Day, doctors and public health experts fear Alabama will see another spike after this weekend’s July Fourth holiday celebrations.

“Fourth of July is very worrisome,” State Health Officer Scott Harris said. “It is really important for people to do all the things that we’ve been trying to get them to do.”

“It’s hard to prove Memorial Day gatherings were the cause of what we just went through in June, but I believe they were. It certainly makes sense as far as the timetable,” Harris said.

Barbecues, parades and any large gathering have the potential to spread the virus. In the hopes of avoiding another surge, health officials pleaded with people to use caution by avoiding large crowds and wearing masks over their mouths and noses while in public spaces.

Alabama this week reached new records for the highest number of infections reported in a day with more than 1,700 cases.

Alabama has reported more than 41,000 cases of the new coronavirus since the pandemic began with more than 25% of infections being reported in the last two weeks, according to the Alabama Department of Public Health. So far, at least 983 Alabamians have died after contracting the virus.

Alabama this week hit a new high for the number of patients hospitalized with COVID-19 and a new low for the number of available intensive care unit beds.

Dr. Don Williamson, a former state health officer who now heads the Alabama Hospital Association, said that as of Thursday, the state had 840 patients hospitalized with COVID-19 and that 84% of the state’s ICU beds were full, the highest number since the pandemic began.

“I’m really, really worried about the Fourth of July. I think that will likely determine the trend for Alabama for the rest of the summer,” Williamson said.

Williamson said hospitals are managing but that the trends are concerning.

Dr. Michael Saag, an infectious diseases physician at the University of Alabama at Birmingham who also had COVID-19, said large gatherings are “havens” for the virus to spread.

“We are seeing such numbers coming at us that it’s hard to deny the truth that it’s here and it’s getting worse,” Saag said

“My hope is people are waking up to the fact that this is not a fun and games exercise and that this is serious business.”