Variants could cause hospitalizations to spike, but officials say it won’t be as bad as before

Hospitals ready for variants

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WBRC) - In the last month, U.K variant numbers across the state have grown by almost 100 cases.

President of the Alabama Hospital Association, Dr. Don Williamson, said he is not surprised by the quick growth of U.K. variant numbers.

“I can assure you that the variant is far more common than the 100 cases suggest,” Williamson said.

With 103 U.K. variant cases confirmed in Alabama, Williamson said it is likely that number will grow.

“Over time now, whether it is by the end of March, whether it is in April, probably we will find ourselves with the dominant strain being the U.K. variant,” he said.

But, Williamson said even if the variant is dominant, hospitalizations most likely won’t spike as high as before.

“I don’t believe they will go up to anything near what we saw in January,” he said.

He said it’s because a significant portion of the population has antibodies from having the virus.

“Another 500,000 people have had COVID,” he said. “Some of them still have immunity.”

Williamson said even though the variant is more infectious, the transmission most likely won’t be as prominent because many people are now vaccinated.

“I think the number is at least one million people have now had at least one dose of the vaccine, that is 20% of the Alabama population,” he said.

Williamson said if hospitalizations increase, the rise could be slow.

“Couple that with the ability now to use monoclonal antibodies in people who become ill and would otherwise need hospitalization, monoclonal antibodies do a remarkable job at keeping those people out of the hospital,” Williamson said.

He said it is important to vaccinate as many people as possible to protect against the variants.

“I am optimistic that even if we do see a spike due to the U.K. variant, it will be muted and we will see less of an impact on hospitals,” Williamson said.

Dr. Williamson said it’s also important to watch out for the Brazilian and South African variant strains because health officials are concerned that vaccines don’t protect as well against them.

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