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Alabama’s COVID-19 positivity rate begins to decline

The 7-day positivity rate as of Aug. 17 was 25 percent, down from 27.6 percent two weeks earlier on Aug. 3.

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Alabama’s COVID-19 positivity rate has fallen in recent weeks, according to the most recent data compiled by the Alabama Department of Public Health. The decline in the positivity rate — the percentage of tests reported to the Department of Public Health that are positive — is a sign that the spread of COVID-19 may be slowing after months of steadily increasing positivity rates.

The 7-day positivity rate as of Aug. 17 was 25 percent, down from 27.6 percent two weeks earlier on Aug. 3. The rate peaked at 28.9 percent on July 20.

The positivity rate reflects only test results that were reported to the Department of Public Health. With the rise of at-home antigen tests, fewer test results are being reported to the department, which makes the positivity rate less reliable since the sample size is smaller. Even though the rate may not take into account as many test results as it once did, it is still a sample of the population and experts say the positivity rate is still useful in combination with other metrics.

Likewise, case counts are likely an undercount because of asymptomatic cases that may go untested, reporting lags, and the ubiquity of at-home tests, the results of which are typically not reported, but the number of cases reported per day has also been declining since early July.

The number of people hospitalized with COVID-19 is among the best indicators to assess the state of the ongoing pandemic. At least 555 people were hospitalized with COVID-19 as of Aug. 21, which is a decrease from a recent high of 738 on July 25.

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Last week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced new recommendations and guidelines for the pandemic moving forward. The latest guidance removed the six-foot standard for social distancing, suggestions the unvaccinated may go without quarantining if they are exposed, and schools no longer have to screen seemingly healthy students for COVID-19.

On Wednesday, CDC Director Rochelle Walensky highlighted the center’s failures in handling the pandemic in a video circulated to CDC employees, citing “pretty dramatic, pretty public mistakes” throughout the pandemic response.

For its part, the Alabama Department of Public Health recently moved to weekly updates of its COVID-19 Data and Surveillance Dashboard, now updating the datasets every Thursday morning.

John is a reporter at the Alabama Political Reporter. You can contact him at [email protected] or via Twitter.

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