COVID-19 hospitalizations down in Alabama, but deaths keep rising

Published 9:05 pm Monday, September 20, 2021

The number of COVID-19 patients in Alabama hospitals has fallen below 2,000, but medical officials cautioned Monday that hospitals and intensive care units remain full of largely unvaccinated patients and that deaths contributed to the decline.

After weeks of a near vertical upward trajectory in hospitalizations — as the highly contagious delta variant spread through unvaccinated populations — the number of people in state hospitals dipped Monday to 1,947 — the lowest it has been since early August.

The number is down from 2,890 on Sept. 1 and 3,087 on Jan. 12. But it remains way above the early summer lull in the pandemic when there were fewer than 300 people hospitalized.

The dip is a potentially a positive sign, medical officials said, but they cautioned that large numbers of people remain in the hospital and that deaths contributed to the decline

“It is a good sign, but 25 consecutive days with more than 40 deaths clearly contributes to the decline,” Dr. Don Williamson, the former state health officer who now heads the Alabama Hospital Association, said.

According to researchers at Johns Hopkins University, the seven-day rolling average of daily deaths in Alabama has risen over the past two weeks from 27.57 deaths per day on Sept. 4 to 76.29 deaths per day on Sept. 18.

Williamson said he is concerned about the impact of a potential decrease in the availability of monoclonal antibody treatments as federal officials ration the valuable resource.

State Health Officer Scott Harris said Friday, that it’s possible the delta variant had peaked in the state but cautioned that it is too soon to tell. He too said part of the reason the hospital numbers have declined is because of the number of patients that have died.

“We are also continuing to have double digit numbers of deaths which accounts for some of the decline,” Harris said.