WATCH: State Health Officer Dr. Scott Harris Addresses New COVID Surge in Alabama
State Health Officer Dr. Scott Harris held a news conference Tuesday morning to address the recent surge of new COVID cases in Alabama. That news conference was carried live on CBS 8 and ABC 32.
Dr. Harris says that nearly 40% of all COVID tests are coming back positive — that’s the highest ever — and that doesn’t include those tests that people may be taking at home.
He says at that rate, most Alabamians, if not all, will get COVID at some point. He says the new Omicron variant is much more contagious than Delta.
The best way to protect yourself from getting extremely sick is by being fully vaccinated with a booster shot. Harris says there aren’t any statistics on exactly how much that helps because Omicron has only been spreading since the last week of November.
He points to a UK study that is encouraging — it says deaths are about half of what they were with Delta. Delta had a death rate of 2% in Alabama, so the deaths — which he always wants to avoid — statistically could be just 1% of cases. Even so, that would make the Omicron variant ten times more deadly than the flu.
Harris says do not go to hospitals for testing. One option is a county health department, which he says offers tests at some point every day.
Hospitalizations are now up to around 1,100, up from fewer than 300 just two weeks ago. The number of people in ICU is not a the level of the previous spikes in January or August of 2021. There are currently fewer than 200 patients in ICU statewide, compared to more than 800 in August.
Harris says 9,310 Alabamians died of COVID in 2021, and 16,496 since the pandemic started.
Watch the news conference below.