The number of Alabamians who have died from COVID-19 surpassed the number of deaths from the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, according to data from the Alabama Department of Public Health on Election Day.
As voters headed to their polling locations Tuesday morning, the Alabama Department of Public Health updated the state’s death toll to 2,987. The terrorist attacks in 2001 killed 2,977 and injured more than 25,000. Nationally, COVID-19 has killed 237,031 as of Tuesday, according to the data tracking website World-O-Meter.
President Donald Trump at several recent rallies has said that the country’s COVID-19 crisis is “rounding the turn” and blamed rising cases on more testing, but The White House’s top coronavirus advisor, Dr. Deborah Birx, in an internal report Monday said: “We are entering the most concerning and most deadly phase of this pandemic … leading to increasing mortality,” The Washington Post reported.
“Cases are rapidly rising in nearly 30 percent of all USA counties, the highest number of county hotspots we have seen with this pandemic,” Birx said in the report. “Half of the United States is in the red or orange zone for cases despite flat or declining testing.”
Alabama also saw an additional 1,037 confirmed and probable coronavirus cases added on Tuesday, and the state’s 14-day average of new daily cases was as high as it’s been since Aug. 11, at 1,529.
Testing across Alabama has been declining, despite rising cases. Over the past two weeks, 6,962 tests per day have been conducted, on average. That 14-day average is down 8 percent from a month ago.
With cases up and testing down, the percentage of tests that are positive has been increasing, as well. That rate Tuesday was almost 22 percent, based on 14-day averages of tests conducted and positive tests. Public health experts say it should be below 5 percent or there’s not enough testing being done and cases are going undetected.
On Sunday, the last day ADPH has updated the figure, Alabama hospitals were caring for 967 COVID-19 patients, and the state’s seven-day average of hospitalizations was up to 980, the highest it’s been since Sept. 2. Hospitalizations have been steadily rising statewide in recent weeks, prompting concern from public health officials.
Suzanne Judd, an epidemiologist and professor at UAB’s School of Public Health, told reporters Monday that the increases in hospitalizations are especially concerning as hospitals are also seeing more patients with the regular seasonal flu.
“They got above that thousand point for a couple of days this week, and now they’re back down under 1,000 but that’s a pretty high point to be at, in terms of hospitalizations,” Judd said of hospitalized COVID-19 patients.
Alabama added 14 new confirmed and probable COVID-19 deaths on Tuesday, and the 14-day average of deaths was at 13.