MONTGOMERY, Ala. — Alabama’s COVID-19 test positivity rate is continuing to grow by the day, indicating a surge in COVID-19 cases in the state, according to recent data from the Alabama Department of Public Health.
The state’s COVID-19 test positivity rate — the percentage of reported tests that are positive — reached 29.2 percent on July 14, the most recent date for which data is available. The positivity rate has increased 4.4 percent since July 1 to its highest rate since February, amid the waning weeks of the winter Omicron surge.
An increase in the positivity rate statewide indicates increased community spread despite a more muted increase in case counts. Testing rates have plummeted in recent months and more people are using at-home rapid tests, which are generally not included in case counts. The positivity rate is considered a better indicator by public health experts.
The latest surge is being driven by a spike of BA.5, a highly transmissible omicron subvariant that is able to evade immunity. It has lead to a surge in COVID-19 nationwide including a rise in hospitalizations.
In Alabama, hospitalizations are also increasing. At least 580 people were in hospitals with COVID-19 on Sunday, the latest date for which hospitalization data is available. The number of COVID-19 patients hospitalized in Alabama has increased nearly 17 percent over the last week and by 42 percent over the last two weeks.
Continued stagnation remains the best description for the state’s vaccination rate over the last several months. Just 51.7 percent of Alabamians have been fully vaccinated. Even fewer have received booster doses. The current nationwide vaccination level shows that 67.1 percent of the total U.S. population is fully vaccinated as of July 13, according to the CDC.
Preliminary data suggests that the BA.5 subvariant is more infectious than previous subvariants. It also appears to cause milder sickness, although hospital numbers and deaths due to COVID-19 have increased over the last several weeks.
Persons infected with the BA.5 subvariant are experiencing many of the cold and flu-like symptoms commonly associated with COVID-19, including:
- Sore throat
- Runny nose
- Night sweats
- Lingering cough
- Some patients are also reporting new loss of taste and smell
As this latest surge continues, the Alabama Department of Public Health reminds citizens to monitor the COVID-19 level in their community and to continue practicing appropriate mitigation and prevention strategies including wearing a well-fitting mask and social distancing.
The CDC recommends that everyone ages 6 months and older protect themselves from COVID-19 by getting vaccinated. Everyone ages 12 years and older should stay up to date on their COVID-19 vaccines and get a booster shot when eligible. Vaccination remains the best way to protect against severe illness, hospitalization and death. Visit alabamaunites.com to locate a vaccination site near you.
Editor's note: portions of this story were previously published at alreporter.com.