‘Our state literally shrunk in 2020’: Dr. Harris provides update on COVID-19 across Alabama

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MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WIAT) — State Health Officer Dr. Scott Harris said 2020 marked the first year in Alabama history that saw more deaths than births.

Dr. Harris made the announcement during his weekly press briefing on the pandemic Friday. He put emphasis on the high death rate in recent weeks saying 192 deaths from COVID-19 were reported to the Alabama Department of Public Health Thursday.

“This past year, 2020, is going to be the first year that we know of in the history of our state where we actually had more deaths than births,” Dr. Harris said. “Our state literally shrunk in 2020, based on the numbers that we have managed to put together, and actually by quite a bit. 

More than 64,000 deaths have been recorded so far in 2020 compared to around 57,000 births. The state health officer says the state will continue to update these numbers. 

Hospitalizations in the state have begun to decline but Dr. Harris says this can be deceiving.

“That’s certainly a good thing, in a way. We don’t want hospital numbers to continue to increase. I would just say, very respectfully and with compassion, there’re two ways people leave the hospital. One of them is not very good,” he said. 

Alabama is still in the net negative for ICU beds as more patients are in need of critical care than there are available units.

ADPH is now receiving school COVID-19 data from all but two school districts in the state and there has been a slight decrease in the last week of reported cases. However, the total number of school-aged children who have tested positive is still around 300% more than this time last year, according to Dr. Harris.

The topic of monoclonal antibodies, a treatment that has become popular in treating the effects of COVID-19, was also discussed by Dr. Harris who says changes are going to be made in how the treatment is supplied to states.

Suppliers will no longer be able to order the medicine themselves and it will be distributed by state health departments. The supply given to each state will be determined by the number of cases.

“We are really sorry to say that there are probably going to be some patients that aren’t able to access that drug who thought they were going to have that available to them,” he said. 

You can watch the full press briefing in the video player above

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