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Alabama’s COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations continue worrisome rise

There were a record 1,586 coronavirus patients in hospitals statewide Thursday, breaking the previous record set Monday, the fifth straight day of record-high hospitalizations.

Alabama’s COVID-19 hospitalizations and new daily cases hit all-time highs on Thursday, and over the last week, the state saw five days of record-high hospitalizations. Hospitals in Birmingham and Tuscaloosa on Friday were caring for more COVID-19 patients than at any point during the pandemic. 

There were a record 1,586 coronavirus patients in hospitals statewide Thursday, breaking the previous record set Monday, the fifth straight day of record-high hospitalizations. 

UAB Hospital on Friday was caring for a record-high 107 COVID-19 inpatients, which was 30.5 percent more than the hospital had two weeks earlier. UAB has already begun allocating beds and resources meant for other patients to coronavirus patients, which is part of the hospital’s contingency plan, UAB physicians told reporters this week, who also said the hospital could still provide care for all patients.  

DCH Health Systems in Tuscaloosa was also caring for record-high numbers of COVID-19 patients Friday. The hospital system hit a record high of 100 coronavirus inpatients on Thursday and remained at 100 on Friday, which was a 69 percent increase in two weeks’ time. 

East Alabama Medical Center saw a slight dip in the number of COVID-19 inpatients on Friday when the hospital was caring for 54 positive patients — down from Wednesday’s all-time high of 62.

As COVID-19 hospitalizations in Alabama have continued to rise in recent weeks, so too have coronavirus deaths. Alabama also saw more COVID-19 deaths in the last two weeks, 318, than during any previous two-week period since the pandemic began. 

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On Wednesday, the Alabama Department of Public Health reported 57 new coronavirus deaths, also a new daily record, but an Alabama Department of Public Health spokesman told APR that the spike was due to delays in getting data used to verify COVID-19 deaths and not due to a true single-day rise in deaths.

Even so, the seven- and 14-day averages of daily increases to the state’s death toll have risen substantially in the last two weeks. Seven- and fourteen-day averages are used to smooth out daily inconsistencies and variability in reporting data.

The 14-day average of daily confirmed coronavirus deaths was 23 on Friday — meaning that on average, the state reported 23 deaths per day for the last 14 days. That’s up from 14 two weeks ago. The seven-day average was 13 two weeks ago but 23 on Friday, when Alabama confirmed 38 COVID-19 deaths.

Within the last two weeks, Alabama added 24,473 new coronavirus cases, more than during any two-week period since the pandemic began. The state added 1,669 news cases on Friday, and the state’s 14-day average of new daily cases was a record-high 1,748 on Friday. 

Coronavirus testing statewide was down from last week. The state’s 14-day average of new daily tests on Friday was down 980 from the week before, but the percentage of tests that are positive remains much higher than public health experts say is needed to get control of the virus.

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Alabama’s seven-day positivity rate was 18.8 percent Friday.

Public health experts say that rate should be at or below 5 percent, or testing is too limited and cases are going undetected.

Eddie Burkhalter is a reporter at the Alabama Political Reporter. You can email him at [email protected] or reach him via Twitter.

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