OPELIKA, Ala. (WRBL) – The Alabama Hospital Association reports COVID-19 infections and hospitalizations are exploding across Alabama due to the highly contagious Delta variant. Twenty-two children in Alabama are now hospitalized with confirmed cases of COVID-19, including one infant at East Alabama Medical Center who was admitted to be monitored for a fever associated with the virus. The baby’s family reports they were released to go home late Wednesday afternoon. The surge comes as Alabama’s vaccination rate remains stagnant at 33-percent, the lowest in the country.

“If you go back three weeks, we were running less than 200 new cases per day on average. Last week we were at 700 cases, then 900. Yesterday we were at 1391, and today 1630-something new cases. Ten days ago, we averaged about 190 patients in the hospital per day. Now we are up to 554 cases, and it’s been a consistent increase. The past ten days, we have seen the explosion,” said Dr. Don Williamson, Alabama Hospital Association’s President.

Dr. Don Williamson reports 22 of those hospitalizations are children, compared to 9 children hospitalizations the week of July 16th.

“Twenty-two are children. That is worrisome because not only are you concerned about how they are going to handle the virus as individuals, but what it says about spread in the community,” said Dr. Williamson.

In addition, East Alabama Medical Center in Opelika confirmed Wednesday morning, an infant was admitted for fever associated with COVID-19. The child’s mother, Hanna Tielking, has been messaging with News 3’s Elizabeth White. Late Wednesday afternoon Tielking said EAMC doctors released her baby from the hospital and they are heading home. Tielking says this is the second time her infant has been admitted to EAMC due to COVID-19. “We are mentally, physically, and financially struggling, but we’re blessed. My baby is coming home,” said Tielking. News 3 hopes to speak with the family when they get settled at home as they have all been ill with the virus.

Dr. Williamson says viral loads with Delta are a thousand times higher than the original virus, making it much more contagious.

“The time of exposure to get infected is significantly less than with the original variant we dealt with in January; it was about 15 minutes of contact with someone to get infected, now it’s five seconds or maybe a minute or two to infect people. Given we have a more infectious variant this year, I am very concerned we could see a very large outbreak in school this fall. Now, typically children do very well with the virus, but they can still bring it home to adults who are not vaccinated or adults who are vaccinated and have a breakthrough case,” said Dr. Williamson.

Tuesday, the Alabama Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics strongly recommends all Alabama School superintendents require face masks and other safety measures.

“As of 7/8/2021, there have been 50,588 cases of COVID-19 among Alabama youth ages 0-17. The number of new cases of COVID-19 among children per week is increasing and is currently equivalent to the
number per week added in the summer of 2020. COVID-19 is not a benign disease among children. Although data in Alabama are limited, across the United States approximately one out of every 100 children with COVID will require hospitalization. Three hundred and forty-four children across the U.S. have died due to COVID-19, including eight here in Alabama. For those who survive initial infection, approximately three out of every 10,000 will experience a delayed, life-threatening multi-system inflammatory syndrome and up to half of all infected children may experience symptoms of long COVID, including fatigue, shortness
of breath, heart palpitations and chest pain, headaches, difficulty concentrating, muscle weakness and more. We also recognize that schools and school-supported programs are fundamental to child and adolescent development and well-being and provide our children and adolescents with academic instruction, social and emotional skills, safety, reliable nutrition, physical/occupational/speech therapy, mental health services, health services, and opportunities for physical activity, among other benefits. Everything possible must be
done to keep students physically in school.” said the Alabama Chapter of AAP in a statement released Monday.

Dr. Williamson says the best way to protect Alabamians is to increase vaccination rates. Recent scientific data shows vaccines are working. Ninety-four percent of Alabama’s hospitalizations and 96 percent of Alabamians who have died from COVID-19 were not fully vaccinated.

“Well done scientific studies, at least on the two messenger RNA vaccines have very low side effect profiles. They have very high effectiveness even to the Delta variant and even better against bad outcomes like hospitalizations and death. The time to get vaccinated is now. Please, the life you save may be yours; it may be your child, or your father or your mother or someone you love that is unable to get vaccinated,” said Dr. Williamson.

Dr. Williamson urges everyone to speak with a trusted health care provider and get vaccinated.