‘We see a path forward’: Ala. state health officer optimistic but says this isn’t the time to ease up

Alabama State Health Officer Dr. Scott Harris gives an update on the COVID-19 pandemic and...
Alabama State Health Officer Dr. Scott Harris gives an update on the COVID-19 pandemic and vaccines on Friday, Feb. 19, 2021.(Source: WSFA 12 News)
Updated: Feb. 19, 2021 at 12:03 PM CST
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MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WSFA) - Alabama State Health Officer Dr. Scott Harris said Friday this may be the most optimistic he has been since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic.

However, that doesn’t mean Alabamians should change what they are doing.

“The message is, we are not out of the woods, but we see how to get out of the woods and please don’t stop doing the things that you are doing. This is not the time to ease up on wearing your mask. It’s not the time to go be in large groups of people and think that everything is going to be just fine. We are almost there, we have a few more months to go,” Harris said in a news conference Friday. “Please continue to think about those people who are most vulnerable.”

Hospitalization numbers in Alabama are the lowest they have been since the early part of the summer. As of Thursday, 1,003 inpatients with COVID-19 were being treated across the state.

State health officials are also encouraged by the recent 9.4 percent positivity rate, which is the lowest since October. The number of new daily cases has also been below 1,000 on several days recently.

“This is the most optimistic we have been maybe since this all began. You know, 1,000 people in the hospital is a lot of sick people. I don’t want to try to sound too optimistic about that, but at the same time, we see a path forward, and we know how we are going to get there now and it seems to be working,” Harris said.

The latest numbers from the Alabama Department of Public Health shows Alabama has administered about 717,000 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine.

Harris says more than 58,000 COVID-19 vaccinations were given last week. The state expects to receive more than 90,0000 vaccine doses for the week of Feb. 21-27.

Harris says vaccinations may have some role in the current case numbers but there is also natural immunity from those who contracted the virus.

“We hope that the trajectory continues down. We would love for this disease to go away on its own, but we just don’t know at this point,” Harris added.

Currently, the state is still in Phase 1B of vaccinations. Harris said they won’t expand to the next phase until they stop seeing high demand among the current eligible population. He added that there aren’t nearly enough doses to cover those who are currently eligible.

Harris said the next group in line to receive the vaccine would be those with chronic diseases.

While areas across the country are experiencing delays in administering and receiving COVID-19 vaccines, ADPH says there was no loss of vaccines in Alabama due to the inclement weather. Harris added Friday that any delays with vaccine distribution were minimal.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has also updated the recommendations for residents who need to receive a second dose. According to the CDC, if a delay occurs in the normal distribution schedule for a second dose, those doses may be administered up to 42 days after the first one.

Alabama could begin receiving the Johnson & Johnson vaccine at the beginning of March, but Harris said no specifics have been given.

To date, the state has reported 485,212 cases of the virus with 847 new cases reported Friday.

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