Alabama State Health Officer Dr. Scott Harris on Tuesday tested positive for COVID-19, he announced on Wednesday.
“Fortunately, I am fully vaccinated and have already received my second booster shot,” Harris said in a statement. “I am having only mild symptoms and will be working from home this week while remaining isolated according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines.”
Harris said while case numbers have declined recently in Alabama “this serves as a reminder that COVID-19 continues to circulate in our state.”
“The single best way to prevent serious illness or death is to be fully vaccinated and boosted,” he said.
Harris has been at the state’s forefront of the battle against the deadly virus since before Alabama’s first case was confirmed. Some of the mitigation measures recommended, and some ordered, by his office and Gov. Kay Ivey have been credited for slowing the spread and saving lives.
Some of those aame mitigation efforts however, drew the ire of some state officials and members of the public, some of whom framed it as a matter of freedom.
Harris himself was issued a bulletproof vest and law enforcement protection for a time during the pandemic after receiving death threats over the state’s mask mandate.
While cases, hospitalizations and deaths have been on a steady decline, a new subvariant of COVID called omicron BA.2 has been spreading fast across the U.S. and in other countries, although public health officials aren’t yet certain whether the variant will result in more severe disease.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that BA.2 caused 86 percent of new Covid-19 cases across the U.S. last week.
“We are certainly seeing the beginning of a surge of new infections,” said Dr, Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, according to CNN. “It depends on how high we go up in the surge, and it depends on whether the surge is associated with an increase in severe disease.
“I can’t say where we are right now, because we’re transitioning,” Fauci said.
There have been at least 19,379 confirmed COVID deaths in Alabama and 1,297,091 cases, although that figure is an undercount, as many who have the virus may not be tested, and some who test at home do not turn those results over to the Alabama Department of Public Health.