State Health Officer Talks Surging COVID Cases and Upcoming Vaccines

Coronavirus cases continue to surge in Alabama. The last three days have all seen record high case numbers and hospitalizations. Senator Doug Jones and State Health Officer Dr. Scott Harris addressed the situation today.

Dr. Harris and Senator Jones talked for more than an hour Friday morning about everything from those record high numbers to vaccine developments. Dr. Harris said Alabama should see its first wave of vaccines come in two weeks… But warns only a small number of people will get treated so now is not the time to let your guard down as circumstances continue to worsen.

Alabama is now seeing about 2,500 new COVID cases each day, higher than anytime during the pandemic… Numbers Dr. Harris said is mind-boggling.

He said as early as spring, there should be at least six different vaccines on the market… The first two coming to the state in the next two weeks– about 40,000 doses. “This vaccine has to be maintained at negative 80 degrees centigrade, and there aren’t a tremendous number of sites in the state that can handle that,” He explained. “Most of our larger hospitals can. There are a few academic and research institutions that can.”

Dr. Harris explained the logistics of distributing and storage of the vaccines is still being planned out. He said there will be 16 different hospitals spread across the state that will receive vaccines.

There are four phases to the distribution process: The first group include healthcare workers and first responders who are at the highest risk of exposure and who also care for those with critical needs. Also in the first round: residents of skilled nursing facilities who have critical needs. The next group of people eligible is critical workers in high risk settings, essential workers and older adults. The last two phases of distribution include critical workers not treated in phase 2 and all un-vaccinated groups.

“There is simply not enough vaccine right now for everyone, and there’s not enough vaccine even for everyone who’s highly deserving of it,” Dr. Harris said. “The people at the very tip top of our list are the ones we wanted to treat right of the bat are those healthcare workers at high risk.”

The 6 vaccines that Dr. Harris mentions will all be different. He said age, underlying health conditions and other factors will determine which is best for an individual. As of now, there isn’t a vaccine that will treat children or expecting mothers.

Senator Jones encourages everyone to continue wearing face masks, staying home as much as possible and continuing the other COVID precautions, “Think about those who had an empty chair at Thanksgiving because a loved one was lost,” Senator Jones said. “Think about those who have been on ventilators for so long.”

“We’ve all got to stick with this a little bit longer, but I know we can do it if we all work together,” Dr. Harris said.

As for the 908-billion dollar bi-partisan Coronavirus relief proposal that doesn’t include direct payments to Americans, Senator Jones said it’s not as big of a package as he’d like to see, but he said he does not think this is the last one.

Next week, Governor Ivey is expected to discuss the mask mandate that ends next Friday. Dr. Harris said he’s encouraging her to extend it again.


Categories: Coronavirus, News, Statewide