Omicron is still booming in Alabama.
the Alabama Department of Public Health reported that Alabama’s COVID positivity rate — the percentage of tests that come back positive over a 7-day period — hit an all-time high of 45.3% on Wednesday.
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It is difficult to compare the positivity rate from state to state in the United States because each state reports COVID numbers differently and at different times. But the data from the US Department of Health and Human Services says Alabama’s positivity rate is among the highest in the nation, if not the highest. On Monday, the last day for which HHS had data, no state had a rate higher than Oklahoma’s 44.9% — a number Alabama has now surpassed.
The latest increase in the positivity rate coincides with an increase in cases over the past week. Case data has turned murky due to a number of data issues at ADPH, but case numbers remain at record highs, with the 7-day average for daily cases hitting over 12,000 on Wednesday .
There was a moment earlier this week when it looked like Alabama’s COVID numbers might be slowing. The rate of increase in new cases and the rate of positivity seemed to be dropping – but that is changing now. Case data remains murky, but the state reported more than 15,000 new cases Thursday. This is the most ever reported in a day without a backlog. And the speed at which Alabama’s positivity rate is rising has picked up again, after a significant slowdown earlier this month.
[Can’t see the chart? Click here.]
Earlier in the omicron wave, the state’s positivity rate was growing at breakneck speed, at one point increasing by an average of nearly three percentage points per day. Around the start of January, that started to slow down, and by January 11, the state’s positivity rate appeared to have plateaued, hovering at just over 40% for just over a week. .
But since then, the state’s numbers have started to rise again, with the positivity rate now increasing by about 0.6 percentage points per day. That may not seem like much, but these are significant increases for a state whose positivity rate is already at record highs.
And this rate is increasing. Between Tuesday and Wednesday, the last days for which data was available, the rate rose by more than a percentage point – something that hadn’t happened here for more than two weeks.
Positivity rates are high across Alabama, but some counties are hit harder than others.
[Can’t see the map? Click here.]
Nineteen of Alabama’s 67 counties currently have a positivity rate above 50%, meaning more than half of all tests taken in those counties come back positive.
No county has a higher rate than Chilton County, south of Birmingham, with a positivity rate of 58.8%.
Hospitalizations still on the rise
Meanwhile, COVID hospitalizations in Alabama continue to rise.
As of Thursday, there were more than 2,700 people hospitalized with COVID in Alabama. Among those more than 100 were children, as pediatric hospitalizations for COVID surpassed the century mark for the first time since the start of the pandemic, according to data from the Alabama Hospital Association, ADPH and HHS. This includes eight pediatric COVID patients in intensive care and two on ventilators.
With omicron, a number of people hospitalized with COVID actually went to the hospital for something else — a heart attack, childbirth, or gunshot wound, for example — but ended up testing positive while there. It’s something medical experts say they didn’t see as much during the delta wave at the end of last summer. But they say that number is relatively low, and that hospitals across the state are currently facing challenges both due to increased patient numbers and sick staff.
Data from the state hospital association shows there were 500 COVID patients in the ICU as of Wednesday, and only 6% of all ICU beds in the state were available. Two of the nine hospital regions in the state were operating with more patients needing intensive care than there were intensive care beds there, and seven of the nine had less than 10% beds available.