Alabama has the least percentage of fully vaccinated residents in the nation, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Alabama, with 33.1 percent of residents fully vaccinated, held the rating of second-worst vaccination rate for months, behind Mississippi, which now holds that spot, at 33.3 percent fully vaccinated.
New cases statewide have increased 80 percent from two weeks ago, and hospitalizations have risen seven percent, according to The New York Times COVID-19 tracking. The state is averaging 275 new cases and five deaths daily.
Alabama’s 80 percent increase in new cases is the eighth-highest rise in the nation over those two weeks, and well above the overall U.S. increase of 39 percent.
The Alabama Department of Public Health’s risk dashboard labels 26 of Alabama’s 67 counties as having a “very high risk” for the spread of COVID-19, up from six two weeks ago, and 21 last week.
ADPH uses the seven-day average of new daily cases to categorize counties as either low risk, moderate risk, high risk or very high risk. In addition to the counties deemed as very high risk, four counties are “high risk.”
The percent of COVID-19 tests that are positive statewide increased to 4.8 percent on July 3, according to ADPH. Public health officials say it should be at or below 5 percent or cases are going undetected. It had been as low as 2.9 percent on June 19.
Dr. Jeanne Marrazzo, head of infectious diseases at UAB, told reporters Wednesday that the increase in cases comes at a time when testing remains low.
“I would wager right now that almost all of the testing is being done in people who were being worked up for a symptomatic respiratory or other illness, maybe from contacts, and maybe for pre screening for procedures or for travel,” Marrazzo said.
Marrazzo said increases in cases across the country are regional, and vaccinations are showing to be critical at stopping the spread.
“Places where they had gotten COVID under good control, and critically, where they have managed to vaccinate the majority of the population by county or by state or by city, are not seeing the same increase at all,” Marrazzo said.
States with the largest increases in new cases over the last two weeks are in the South and Midwest, where vaccination rates have remained low.
Mississippi’s new cases jumped 91 percent over the last two weeks. Louisiana, with a 35.6 percent vaccination rate, saw cases rise 109 percent, and Tennessee, where 37 percent of residents are vaccinated, had a 169 percent increase in new cases.
With cases trending up and vaccinations remaining low, Marrazzo warned that Alabama could be headed into another deadly surge. “That is a very feasible scenario which I don’t like think about, but I think we have to be prepared for,” Marrazzo said.