UAB doctor on spread of COVID-19 in Alabama: “Time is running out.”

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BIRMINGHAM, Ala. – In a call with reporters Monday, UAB Infectious Disease Dr. Michael Saag said the time for vaccine hesitancy in Alabama is over.

Dr. Saag said Alabama is currently facing a “wildfire” of COVID-19 cases, and he’s concerned that the rise in hospitalizations could put a strain on hospital systems.

“I’m not trying to be an alarmist here, but the numbers are a little bit daunting at the present time and I think it’s worth us all just pausing, paying attention, and doing what we need to do to protect ourselves and our family.”

Dr. Michael Saag, UAB Infectious Diseases

Since July 3rd, Alabama hospitals have seen a more than 400% increase in COVID-19 patients. According to CDC data, 17% of COVID-19 tests in Alabama are coming back as positive.

Dr. Jeanne Marrazzo, director of UAB’s Division of Infectious Diseases, said Alabama is doing well at vaccinating older adults, who have long been the most vulnerable to severe complications from the virus. However, Marrazzo says the state is struggling to vaccinate younger people.

“Our Achilles’ heel remains very low rates of coverage in younger adults, particularly those aged 12 to 49,” Marrazzo said. “We just are not managing to reach those folks in the way we need to.”

Dr. Saag suggested that even those who are fully vaccinated should take additional measures to protect themselves from the highly contagious Delta variant of COVID-19.

“I think we should all go back to mask wearing, especially when we’re out in public,” Saag said. “We should avoid large crowds. We don’t have to lock down. We don’t have to be at home. But if you do go out, make sure you’re wearing a mask, even if you’re vaccinated.”

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