Etowah County sees more than half as many COVID cases in January alone as in all of '21

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Etowah County already has seen through the first month of 2022 more than half the number of COVID-19 cases recorded for the entire year of 2021.

According to the Alabama Department of Public Health’s Data and Surveillance Dashboard, Etowah County as of Friday had recorded 5,668 cases of COVID-19. By comparison, the county saw 10,272 cases in 2021 and 10,815 in 2020.

Etowah County’s 50.5% test positivity rate on Friday was the third highest in Alabama, trailing only Crenshaw at 54.9% and Henry at 51.1%, and was 10.7% higher than the overall state rate of 39.8%. Of 1,623 tests taken within the county in the previous seven days, 819 were positive.

Four people in the county died during that period from COVID-19, bringing the 2022 death toll to 12 and the total number of fatalities since the start of the pandemic to 543.

The state of Alabama officially reached 17,045 deaths from COVID-19 on Friday, and has seen 371 deaths in 2022 alone.

In total, Alabama has had 1,195,557 cases of COVID-19. Of those, 274,434 have been seen so far in January, which as with Etowah County is more half the total cases (533,698) recorded last year.

UAB also reported a large increase in hospitalizations from COVID-19. As of Thursday, the hospital reported 249 patients admitted for the coronavirus, with 66 of those in the ICU and 41 of those critical patients on ventilators. Of those patients, 167 are not vaccinated; 47 are in critical care and 31 on ventilators.

The positivity rate within the state has gone down slightly, as 39,117 out of 98,355 tests taken within the last week were positive. Every county in Alabama remains at a “high” rating for transmission.

Gadsden-Etowah Emergency Management Agency Director Deborah Gaither during last week’s City Council meeting predicted that the local surge would begin ebbing in mid-February, but urged county residents to wear masks and practice social distancing, and get vaccinated, to “see if we can end the surge sooner than that.”

Gaither had noted that Etowah County’s positivity rate the previous week was highest in the state and third in the U.S.

Conditions and cases within the three public school systems in Etowah County are improving. Attalla City Schools reported 80 cases this week, with Etowah County Schools reporting 435 cases and Gadsden City Schools 133.

“We’re actually getting better. Our student attendance is increasing by the day and our employee attendance is getting better by the day,” Attalla City Superintendent Jeff Colegrove said. “We’re hoping that it continues to get better.”

Gadsden City Superintendent Tony Reddick noted that on Friday, there were only 42 active cases within the system.

“Our infection rate is currently 0.8%,” he said. “This semester, we have seen a total of 537 cases but 90% of those have already made it back to school. In the last two days, we dropped down to only 42 active cases because 10 of those we had reported have since returned.”

Reddick said the mask mandate for Gadsden City Schools has been extended “until further notice.”

He added, “I haven't had any major complaints yet, thank goodness. As long as they are not causing any major problems, we’re going to keep them on until we feel that it’s safe to make it mask optional.”

“Overall, numbers are looking better than last week, cases have been declining over the past few days,” said Dr. Alan Cosby, Etowah County Schools superintendent.

Gadsden Regional Medical Center is currently reporting 55 cases of COVID-19 admitted within their facility. Whitney Alexander, marketing manager for the hospital, said that this number “fluctuates daily, but it is consistent with what other hospitals in our state are experiencing.”

“We have not made any recent updates to visitation, masking or other policies that affect the public,” she said. “As of today, we are continuing all elective surgeries and procedures. We are monitoring the situation every day and will adjust if needed.”

Riverview Regional Medical Center didn't reply to an email seeking similar information.

Etowah County has administered a total of 108,085 COVID-19 vaccines, as well as 13,859 additional booster shots. Of those vaccinated in the county, 51,974 have had one dose and an additional 43,664 have been fully vaccinated.

The state has administered 5,718,544 COVID-19 vaccines, with 2,809,608 Alabamians having at least one dose and another 2,278,729 being fully vaccinated. Additionally, the state has administered 713,902 booster doses of the vaccine. In total, 8,422,495 doses of the vaccine have been delivered to Alabama.

This article originally appeared on The Gadsden Times: State breaks over 17,000 COVID deaths

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