The Omicron variant of the coronavirus is spreading rapidly across Alabama. The Alabama Department of Public Health (ADPH) reports that 51,733 more Alabamians tested positive for the coronavirus. That is out of 125,606 tested, resulting in a positivity rate of 41.2%. A high positivity rate indicates that most people are waiting until they are actually sick and feeling symptoms before getting tested. That is also seen as an indicator that the true number of people that are infected may actually be much higher. To add to that, many people have been unable to gain access to testing.

Some 1,613 Alabamians are currently hospitalized with complications from COVID-19. This is the highest number since Sept. 24th of last year. Hospitalizations had dropped all the way down to 279 on Nov. 26 but have risen in the last 10 days.

Some 16,624 Alabamians have died with COVID and 9,734 of those were in 2021. In 2020, 7,143 died with COVID, and six have perished with the virus thus far in 2022.

Some .6% of the deaths have been in young adults between the ages of 18 and 24. Another 11.9% of the deaths have occurred in adults between the ages of 25 and 49 and 17% of the COVID-19 deaths in Alabama have been among adults age 50 and 64. Some 25.2% of the deaths were in senior adults between the ages of 65 and 74, and 45.3% of the deaths have been for seniors age 75 and up even though they make up only 10.5% of the population of Alabama.

Children are still getting sick from COVID-19. They just aren’t dying from it at the same rate as older Alabamians. Children have died from COVID, but they are a very tiny percentage of total deaths.

The Omicron variant is the most contagious strain of the coronavirus strain seen yet, though it is not as deadly as Delta and the earlier variants. The Omicron variant is posing the biggest challenge for schools as students, teachers, and staff often become infected in numbers making it hard for principals to find enough substitute teachers to keep schools functioning. There were 2,940 cases of positive coronavirus in public-school children in Alabama last week, the first week back from the Christmas break. ADPH is urging schools to adopt mask policies.

The Biden Administration is urging school systems not to go to remote learning again and to keep the schools open despite the challenges and the further spreading of the virus.

“I encourage the states and school districts to use the funding that you still have to protect your children and keep the schools open,” Biden said recently in a statement.

Despite the rising number of cases, Alabama is still not under a state of emergency or a safer-at-home order. State officials have told 1819 News that there are no plans to shut down schools or the economy.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Omicron variant likely will spread more easily than the original SARS-CoV-2 virus, and how easily Omicron spreads compared to Delta remains unknown. CDC expects that anyone with Omicron infection can spread the virus to others, even if they are vaccinated or don’t have symptoms.

The CDC says that more data is needed to know if Omicron infections, and especially reinfections and breakthrough infections in people who are fully vaccinated, cause more severe illness or death than infection with other variants.

The CDC expects that the current vaccines will protect against severe illness, hospitalizations, and deaths due to infection with the Omicron variant. However, breakthrough infections in people who are fully vaccinated have occurred and are likely to continue.

The CDC says that scientists are working to determine how well existing treatments for COVID-19 work. Based on the changed genetic make-up of Omicron, some treatments are likely to remain effective while others may be less effective.

The Omicron variant was reported to the World Health Organization (WHO) on Nov. 24, 2021, and the first confirmed case of it was identified in the United States on Dec. 1.

As of press time, 859,271 Americans have died in the COVID-19 global pandemic. Alabama has the third-highest death rate from COVID-19 with .3390% of the state’s population having already succumbed to the virus. This trails only Mississippi at .3537% and Arizona at .3403%. The national average is .2596%. Vermont is the state least impacted, with losses of .0774%.

To connect with the author of this story, or to comment, email