‘Very difficult situation’: COVID-19 cases continue to rise in school-aged children

Published: Sep. 10, 2021 at 12:05 PM CDT
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BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WBRC) - Alabama State Health Officer Dr. Scott Harris said the state continues to see an increase in COVID-19 cases, an increase in positive cases in school-aged children and a continued deficit in ICU beds for COVID-19 patients.

Cases in Children

During the last week 8,400 school-aged children tested positive for COVID-19. If you compare that same week to a year ago, Harris said it’s a 605 percent increase in cases.

Harris called it a ‘very difficult situation’ to be in for schools and he maintained that he and other health leaders believe it is very important to keep kids in a classroom setting. Because of that he said it is vitally important for schools to take measures like universal masking to keep students safe.

Harris said he applauds the 90 percent of schools that are participating in universal masking.

He continued to encourage vaccinations for children 12 years old and older.

Harris said, “If you want to have a good holiday season with Thanksgiving and Christmas coming up, this is the way that we do it.”

COVID-19 hospitalizations and ICUs

Dr. Harris said Alabama has had a plateau over the past week when it comes to COVID-19 hospitalizations. There were 2,667 Covid patients in Alabama hospitals. That’s the first time under 2,700 in a couple of weeks. 53 of the patients are children.

Harris said the real crisis is in the ICU with 60 more patients requiring ICU care than we have ICU beds for. That means COVID-19 patients are being cared for in an ER or in a converted ward bed or in a hallway.

There were 4,800 positive COVID-19 cases reported Thursday with 53 more deaths reported.

Harris said there is a nine to one increased risk of dying from COVID-19 if you are not fully vaccinated.

0.01% of people who have been vaccinated have died with breakthrough infection.

Increase in Vaccinations

Dr. Harris said there is some encouraging news when it comes to COVID-19 vaccinations. 2.36 million people in Alabama have gotten one or more doses. 1.85 million people are fully vaccinated. Alabama is now ahead of eight states with people having one or more shots.

Harris said he’s excited about the upcoming Kick Covid campaign that will provide vaccination sites to campuses for home football games.

Treatment and Federal Help

Harris said monoclonal antibodies continue to be a highly effective way to prevent serious Covid illness. Alabama was alerted that we will be on allocation for the amount we can order, until around October. Alabama will get about 70 percent of the supply we’re asking for. We are one of several states in the South seeing a surge in cases because of low vaccination rates, so the need for monoclonal antibodies is higher.

Harris said Alabama has 228 infusion providers. You can see a map to get those here.

The federal health team that was in South Baldwin has demobilized. The Dothan team will be here for several more weeks, and five other South Alabama facilities are being considered for federal health teams.

Dr. Harris said Alabama health leaders will use about $13 million from CARES funding allocated to help with hospital staffing. They will staff through a traveling nurse service. Harris said he knows it’s controversial because of the increased pay travel nurses receive, but it’s what the state needs to do in order to care for patients right now.

New information

Alabama has had three cases of the Mu variant, but Dr. Harris said the Mu is not a variant of concern according to the CDC. Harris said it is also not clear whether it’s occurring in high numbers or whether the vaccine is very effective against it.

Harris reminded people that CVS is opening testing sites in different parts of the state.

So far there have been 22,000 total breakthrough COVID-19 cases in Alabama. Harris said that’s lower than what they thought would happen.

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