HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WHNT) — Alabama is seeing an increase in COVID-19 cases and North Alabama is largely a hotspot for virus transmission.

Positive test rates are hovering just below 30%, a figure not seen here since early February.

Huntsville Hospital reported 62 COVID-19 patients on Thursday, double from a month ago. But state and local hospital officials say there are also some favorable signs – related to the severity of illness the hospitals are seeing – and they don’t anticipate a massive summer surge similar to last year.

“Hospitalizations over the last month have more than doubled,” said Don Williamson, president of the Alabama Hospital Association. “But if you compare the rate of increase in hospitalizations now with what we saw with omicron in January or with Delta, last fall, our rate of increase is dramatically slower.”

As of July 15, there were 628 COVID-19 patients hospitalized in Alabama, on the same date a year ago, the figure was 371. But, statewide hospitalizations essentially exploded from the point, increasing to 1,451 patients by August 1 and up to 2,570 by August 15.

At Huntsville Hospital COVID-19 patients have doubled in a month, but there are far fewer patients in the ICU and on ventilators said Huntsville Hospital President Tracy Doughty.

“We have noticed since vaccines have been out there and boosters have been out there, that the severe sickness is not following like it did last year,” Doughty said. “By us only having seven (patients) in the ICU and the on ventilators is a testament that vaccines and boosters are helping prevent severe illness.”

And, statewide, the COVID-19 patient profile is pretty clear, Williamson said.

“Where the difference is really demonstrable is in people who have been boosted, only 16 percent of people who are in the hospital have been boosted,” he said.

Williamson did say that the booster data is less clear on whether it’s a first or second booster shot, but either way, booster recipients are largely avoiding hospital stays.

Huntsville Hospital’s Doughty says they also know far more today about treating COVID-19 patients.

“Monoclonal antibodies that didn’t exist two years ago, we’ve learned more about proning patients — how to turn them and keep their lungs working as optimally as possible,” he said. “We’ve learned more about ventilator settings and how to optimize those. But also our ER physicians and citizens have learned when to come to the hospital when to be admitted. So, two years ago, not knowing how to treat patients … we can send patients home safely today, that we didn’t two years ago. So two years ago, you know we’d probably have 100 patients in the hospital.”

Doughty said Huntsville Hospital’s flu and fever clinic is seeing about 50 patients a week for COVID-19 vaccinations and boosters. That includes vaccinations being offered for young children.