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‘It will infect everyone in this state at some point, probably’: Dr. Scott Harris said Omicron spreading like wildfire

Harris also said COVID-19 is not the flu.
Dr. Scott Harris updates COVID-19 in Alabama
Published: Jan. 4, 2022 at 11:46 AM CST|Updated: Jan. 4, 2022 at 12:40 PM CST
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BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WBRC) - “It will infect everyone in the state at some point, probably, or most of them,” said State Health Officer Dr. Scott Harris who updated COVID-19 and omicron in Alabama.

Harris said Omicron is spreading like wildfire and that’s why being vaccinated and boosted becomes more important for all people who can get the shot.

Dr. Harris said the last several days have shown 7,000 to 8,000 new cases per day across the state. He said most cases that are tested return as positive, and that doesn’t count the at-home tests that can be positive.

Health leaders and Dr. Harris said Omicron is much more contagious than the delta variant, and much more contagious than the original strain.

Harris said the vaccine is the single most important tool to prevent COVID-19 hospitalizations or death.

Alabama has increased three to four fold on hospitalizations over the last month to about 1,100 people in hospitals this week. Harris said it’s still manageable, but flu season is also going on and affecting hospitals and health care workers.

Some data from the UK suggests Omicron causes less serious illness overall and Harris said that would be good news if that turns about to be the case. Here in Alabama two percent of all people died who had delta, and Harris said even if one percent of people with Omicron died that’s ten-fold higher than flu deaths.

QUARANTINE RECOMMENDATIONS

Harris talked about the new CDC guidelines when it comes to testing, isolation and quarantine. Harris said it’s a good idea to get tested to come out of isolation at five days, but the CDC has stopped short of saying that.

Harris said he also wants people to know the new CDC guidelines aren’t for schools or the health care industry.

The state health department’s guidance for schools has not changed. They still recommend universal masking, but school systems will make those decisions.

ANTIVIRAL PILLS FOR TREATMENT

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) granted Emergency Use Authorization to Pfizer for its oral antiviral drug Paxlovid to treat COVID-19. At this point Alabama receives just a few hundred doses every couple of weeks of Paxlovid. The doses will be dispensed through Walmart when it is utilized and available. Harris said ultimately, when the FDA approves the drug it will be available everywhere through all providers, but we’re not there yet.

TESTING

Testing has become a huge problem because of the sheer numbers of people who feel sick and need to get tested. Harris said it is possible to get tested at every health department around the state. He and state leaders are working with vendors to try and set up new testing sites across the state.

Harris reminded people not to go the hospital to get tested. Go to hospitals and the ER if you are sick and need care, but that’s not for routine tests.

DCH: Please don't come to ER for COVID or non-ER COVID care
DCH: Please don't come to ER for COVID or non-ER COVID care(Twitter)

IT’S HERE TO STAY, AND IT’S NOT THE FLU

“We’re not out of the woods. We had 41 people die yesterday. We don’t have that with the flu, we don’t have that with common colds, that’s just not the same thing,” Dr. Harris said. He said we need to realize COVID-19 is here to stay and we can’t imagine that it won’t always be here, but be careful linking it to the flu. Harris said we may have to accept that we’re going to be dealing with it. We’ll do what we can to limit the spread and then try and make sure health care facilities can handle it when they need to.

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