MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WIAT) — Alabama health officials are tracking lower levels of COVID-19 and influenza compared to the start of this year but said it’s still important to take precautions.

The state saw an uptick in COVID at the beginning of January, but those with the Alabama Department of Public Health said cases have leveled off in recent weeks.

Alabama is reporting about 1,000 COVID cases a day, down from about 1,500 a few weeks ago, according to ADPH Dr. Wes Stubblefield.

Stubblefield said the increase early in the year was likely due to multiple factors including new variants and holiday gatherings.

“It obviously didn’t help that there were a lot of people in close proximity and that the weather was cold and people were indoors and all the other things you can imagine,” Stubblefield said.

Most counties are currently at medium or low community COVID levels. When it comes to the flu, Stubblefield said Alabama saw its peak in early winter that has since declined.

“Currently, all of our public health districts except one are below that baseline, although unfortunately we have had 115 influenza-associated deaths, four pediatric and the rest adult,” Stubblefield said.

Hospitalizations across the state are down, too.

“Things are better now than they were about two weeks ago,” said Alabama Hospital Association President Dr. Don Williamson.

Williamson said about 450 people are hospitalized with COVID and roughly 50 with the flu right now. That’s down from about 700 total at the start of the month. He said the biggest challenge right now is limited staffing.

“I think we would be very stressed to handle a spike of 3,000 which we did with Delta, which we did with the initial variant,” Williamson said. “Could we handle 1,000, 1,500? Probably, but it would be hard.”

Williamson said there’s a shortage of nurses and all hospital positions. He said that’s resulting in longer wait times in the emergency department, and units that can’t handle as many patients.

Both doctors say to continue taking precautions in high-risk settings. They advise that it’s not too late to get a flu shot because some flu seasons can extend well into the spring.