‘We’re now dealing with a wildfire’: UAB doctors address public’s questions during COVID-19 panel discussion

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BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WIAT) — Top doctors at UAB held a panel discussion Monday on the latest news regarding COVID-19.

Dr. Jeanne Marrazzo, the director of the Division of Infectious Diseases, and Dr. Michael Saag, the director of the Center of AIDS Research, answered questions from the public and media. The two also addressed the Delta variant, vaccine efficacy and the rise in cases and hospitalizations in Alabama.

Dr. Marrazzo started the panel discussion by breaking down the vaccination rate in the state. Alabama currently ranks last in the country for fully vaccinated residents at around 34%. However, Dr. Marrazzo did say that the state is doing a good job at getting the elderly their shots with around 80% being fully vaccinated.

But the bright side of the discussion was short-lived as she then discussed the recent rise in not only COVID-19 cases in the state but also the rise in hospitalizations. There are currently over 800 hospitalizations in Alabama, a large increase from just over 500 last week. Dr. Marrazzo says that with the rise in cases and hospitalizations, it’s “only a matter of time” before we see a rise in deaths from the virus.

When asked about the lack of vaccine hesitancy, Dr. Saag said he understands the worry but that now there is a lot of information and millions of people vaccinated to help ease people’s minds. Dr. Marrazzo hopes the vaccines being approved by the FDA will go a long way towards bringing the vaccination rate up.

On the highly contagious Delta variant, Dr. Saag said despite initial downplaying of the mutation, it is now a cause for concern.

“Four weeks ago I wasn’t that concerned, I thought we were getting by this. I saw the outbreaks of Delta in the UK and some other places and thought, ‘Eh, I don’t know if this will hit the US.’ But it has hit and it’s hit with a vengeance,” he said. “We’re now dealing with a wildfire, and this wildfire is burning out of control.”

Both doctors reiterated that the time to get vaccinated is now in order to prevent further mutation of the virus and prevent another lockdown.

“By the time we get to October, if we haven’t changed our, lack of a better word, behavior about becoming vaccinated and wearing masks in public, I think we could be in a very bad situation,” Dr. Saag said. “We have the tools at our disposal right now to get this under control. And it’s up to all of us to work together, to vaccinate, to mask up until more people are vaccinated and protect ourselves and our families and the community.”

You can watch the full panel discussion in the video player above.

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