COVID-19 infections are spiking in Mobile and Baldwin counties where only one in three people are vaccinated from the virus.
The vaccination rates in both coastal Alabama counties are lower than Alabama’s 33.7 percent, which as of Monday afternoon was the lowest in the nation and — once again — fell behind Mississippi.
To put the rise of infections into perspective, the number of reported COVID-19 cases in Mobile County in July exceeds all the monthly cases during the months of March, April, May and June, according to Dr. Rendi Murphree, head of epidemiology with the Mobile County Health Department.
Murphree, who provided frequent Facebook updates on COVID-19 during the height of the pandemic, returned to the platform on Monday as coronavirus cases increase in Mobile and Baldwin counties among the unvaccinated people and as worries about the more contagious Delta variant continue in a majority of counties in Alabama where vaccination rates are low.
“At the current vaccine levels, I fear we will see more transmission levels and we will deal with this for many more months to come,” said Murphree. “We cannot have only 30 percent of our population vaccinated and think we can slow the outbreak. If we stay at 30 percent vaccinated, this outbreak will go on and on and on.”
Murphree stressed the need for more the public to have “more barriers to transmission,” that includes unvaccinated people wearing face coverings and social distancing. She said without more proactive measures by the public, “we are going to be dealing with this for many more months and years to come.”
Murphree’s comments come after a news conference at Mobile’s Government Plaza in which Mobile Mayor Sandy Stimpson and County Commissioner Merceria Ludgood urged vaccinated people to encourage people they know who are unvaccinated to get the jab. Her statements also come after U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy said on Sunday that he was concerned about the rise in cases among unvaccinated people and the rise of misinformation about vaccines. U.S. cases of COVID-19 last week increased by 17,000 nationwide over a 14-day period for the first time since late fall.
Murphree said people with doubts about the vaccine’s effectiveness should contact a trusted friend or family member, a pharmacist or dentists and have a conversation about what they need to do to stop the spread of COVID-19 as the Delta variant becomes the dominant strain.
“What we’d like to do is continue to promote vaccinations by realizing that being fully vaccinated is the best chance to protect yourself and others should you get re-infected,” Murphree said.
Though hospitalizations are on the rise, Murphree said Mobile County’s hospitals are not at risk of losing bed space or ventilators. Both were in limited supply last year during the onset of the pandemic when unvaccinated people at high risk of death or illness – those with so-called pre-existing conditions – flocked to health facilities with COVID-19 symptoms.
Murphree said that Mobile County, like other places in the U.S. that are seeing an uptick in cases, are seeing a rise of infections among unvaccinated people ages 18 to 49. She also said that “alarmingly, we’ve seen five times as many (cases) from zero to 4-year-olds who reporting acute COVID infections.”
She added, “It’s an accelerated number of cases and high transmission rate with unvaccinated people in Mobile County.”
Concerns are also mounting over the disputing viewpoints between politicians and health experts over the use of masks when schools begin their fall semesters next month. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has yet to authorize the vaccines for young children ages 0 to 12, and Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey suggested there is no need to have a mask mandate in place for schools to reopen safely next months.
Ivey’s position comes as the American Academy of Pediatrics recommended Monday that all children over the age of 2 wear a mask in school regardless of vaccination status.
Murphree said that returning to K-12 instruction this fall with no mask mandate in place “puts us in a risky situation in late summer and fall.”
She added, “We are only going to be able to turn it around if we work together.”
Murphree’s comments also come af