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Health officer: Face mask requirement may be needed indoors

The head of the health department in Alabama's largest metro area says COVID-19 is spreading so rapidly that public places should consider a return to requiring face masks.

Posted: Jul 22, 2021 4:26 PM

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (AP) — Cases of COVID-19 are rising exponentially in Alabama's largest metro area because a new, highly contagious variant is spreading among the unvaccinated, and public places should consider a return to requiring face masks, the head of the area health department said Thursday.

Dr. Mark Wilson, the health officer for Jefferson County, said studies have shown that the delta variant that's taken hold in Alabama can spread between people in less than a minute, so any indoor area where people gather might need a face mask requirement or at least a strong recommendation that people wear them.

The seven-day rolling average for new cases of COVID-19 has risen eightfold from 13 to 107 a day, he said, and additional new cases and more deaths linked to the pandemic are inevitable, she said.

“The tragic thing is that almost all of these deaths will have been prevented if only those people had been vaccinated,” Wilson said.

The problem isn't isolated to Jefferson County: Only eight of Alabama's 67 counties aren't considered at high risk for the illness caused by the coronavirus, and roughly 50 more patients a day are being admitted to state hospitals with COVID-19, which already has killed more than 11,460 people in Alabama.

With only 31% of the population fully vaccinated and nearly all the new, most serious cases among people who aren't inoculated, Wilson said the state's vaccination rate is “way, way below” what is needed to control the pandemic.

Cases have surged since the July 4 holiday, which officials feared would lead to new outbreaks, Dr. Scott Harris, the head of the Alabama Department of Public Health, said in a video update released by the Medical Association of the State of Alabama.

“Right now we are seeing some pretty difficult times here in Alabama,” Harris said.

Some of the infections are occurring after the type of large gatherings that generally didn't occur until the state lifted health restrictions. Dr. David Thrasher, who practices in Montgomery, said a doctor friend told him about a church in the Birmingham suburb of Trussville that recently held a large celebration for its 200th anniversary which was followed by a massive disease outbreak.

“Seventy people in that congregation have tested positive,” he said. Thrasher said a friend of his died recently and two people who attended the funeral became infected even though they were vaccinated.

Over the past two weeks, the rolling average number of daily new cases has increased by 772, a spike of 280%, according to researchers from Johns Hopkins University.

There were about 226 new cases per 100,000 people in Alabama over the past two weeks, which ranks ninth in the country.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 468498

Reported Deaths: 9100
CountyCasesDeaths
Harrison31907468
Hinds30552569
DeSoto29532342
Jackson22868335
Rankin21016355
Lee14393214
Madison13961263
Jones13053215
Forrest12879231
Lauderdale11244292
Lowndes10148171
Lamar9972122
Pearl River8569208
Lafayette8008136
Hancock7110107
Oktibbeha6764117
Washington6756146
Neshoba6350200
Monroe6304156
Warren6267159
Panola6036122
Pontotoc599292
Bolivar5960143
Marshall5917115
Union558885
Pike5424133
Lincoln5192127
Alcorn509388
George454766
Scott447392
Leflore4377138
Tippah431780
Itawamba429192
Prentiss429074
Copiah423883
Simpson4238108
Wayne419663
Tate418999
Adams4174109
Yazoo411486
Sunflower4057104
Covington404891
Marion399699
Leake389784
Coahoma385996
Newton360273
Grenada3489100
Stone342657
Tishomingo320987
Attala318285
Jasper308261
Winston298191
Clay282672
Chickasaw277464
Clarke271784
Holmes257685
Calhoun256939
Smith241546
Yalobusha215447
Tallahatchie213849
Walthall203457
Lawrence202431
Greene202045
Perry195053
Amite191251
Webster191141
Noxubee173437
Montgomery168652
Jefferson Davis164041
Carroll158936
Tunica146533
Benton137531
Kemper136538
Claiborne124134
Choctaw123824
Humphreys122036
Franklin114127
Quitman100925
Wilkinson98335
Jefferson85832
Sharkey61620
Issaquena1916
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 757893

Reported Deaths: 12784
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson1082301712
Mobile694251158
Madison47738562
Baldwin35347420
Shelby34758281
Tuscaloosa32576495
Montgomery32249645
Lee21576200
Calhoun19621363
Morgan19061307
Etowah18363413
Marshall17028252
Houston15881337
St. Clair14724270
Limestone13908178
Elmore13812239
Cullman13756228
Lauderdale12909263
Talladega12124200
DeKalb11705220
Walker10047303
Autauga9371119
Blount9272146
Jackson8970132
Coffee8550150
Colbert8229160
Dale8162142
Escambia632298
Tallapoosa6255165
Covington6214153
Chilton6152128
Russell586753
Franklin558292
Chambers5155127
Dallas4569173
Marion4490114
Clarke447070
Pike439188
Geneva415999
Lawrence4002101
Winston399982
Bibb388975
Barbour334667
Marengo317778
Monroe306844
Butler305878
Pickens296166
Henry288550
Randolph288255
Hale282981
Cherokee275649
Fayette268569
Washington241844
Crenshaw226962
Clay219260
Macon211154
Cleburne205746
Lamar184638
Conecuh173337
Lowndes167856
Coosa160031
Wilcox153033
Bullock145642
Perry132430
Sumter122635
Greene117941
Choctaw71925
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