Huntsville Hospital currently has 82 inpatients with COVID. That number has been steadily increasing over the past few weeks as cases throughout Madison County have risen with nearly a 30% test positivity rate.
However, Huntsville Hospital says people aren’t getting hospitalized in as severe condition with the new dominant BA.5 variant. Of the 82 inpatients, 3 are on ventilators and 6 are in the ICU.
Infectious disease specialist Dr. Ali Hassoun says there are multiple contributing factors to this surge in cases but low hospitalizations. He says there are more tests readily available so people can get treatment sooner, and there are more treatment options in general.
All of these factors are keeping hospitalizations low, on top of the fact the BA.5 variant doesn’t appear to be as severe as past variants.
“The severity is not as bad and I’m hoping this is going to stay the same. Because the numbers that we’ve seen in the community, even though the hospitalizations definitely have increased there’s not as much ICU admission and death compared to what we used to see in 2020 and 2021,” said Dr. Hassoun.
He said it’s important to follow all of the same precautions health experts have been preaching for the past two years, which includes taking advantage of readily accessible testing. He said the number of cases is likely higher than what is being reported because many people are not testing, or not reporting the results of an at-home test.
As teachers and students get ready to head back to the classroom, cases will likely continue to rise with this highly contagious COVID variant.
The state health department says the good news is all school aged children are now eligible for the COVID vaccine, including the recent approval for kids 6 months to 5 years.
Since the vaccine was approved for that youngest age group last month, almost 2,000 kids under the age of five have been vaccinated throughout Alabama.
That number increases with older age groups, who have been eligible for the vaccine for longer. More than 60,000 doses have been administered to kids ages 5 to 11, and more than 140,000 have been given to those between the ages of 12 and 17.
The Alabama Department of Public Health says vaccination is the best way to slow the spread of the virus, but there are other mitigation strategies to keep in mind when heading back to the classroom.
“We want to keep children in the classroom as much as possible, that’s why we’re talking about trying to use as many of those strategies as possible. Those might include things like masking, making sure kids don’t come to school sick, making sure that there’s plenty of spacing as much as possible, environmental decontamination, good ventilation, and then of course now that we have the ability for vaccination for our kids,” said Dr. Wes Stubblefield with ADPH.
As kids head back to the classroom, Dr. Stubblefield said it is important to keep your child home if they are feeling sick, that way they don’t risk spreading infection to others in school.