BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WIAT) – The Alabama Department of Public Health reported more than 2,000 cases of COVID-19 on Thursday. The state’s positivity rate is up to 12%: the highest it’s been in some time.

While many experts believe this surge was expected due to the contagious nature of the Omicron variant, they are somewhat surprised it’s happening before Christmas and New Year’s. Sadly, they expect this trend to continue.

“We really expect our cases to spike, not just rise,” Dr. Michael Saag of UAB said.

“Omicron is so infectious that a lot of people are going to be coming down with the sniffles, scratchy throats, maybe a headache and some low-grade fever,” Dr. Saag said.

Dr. Wes Stubblefield with the Alabama Department of Public Health says if cases continue to soar at the rate it is right now, hospitals could be overrun again. He says hospitals in Alabama haven’t fully recovered from the last massive surge.

“If it got like last year, it would be very tough. Because a lot of hospitals still haven’t recovered from losses in their nursing pool,” Dr. Stubblefield said.

Dr. Saag says while studies suggest the Omicron variant isn’t as deadly as Delta, he fears for the unvaccinated since it isn’t known what the long-term effects of the variant are. He expressed frustration Thursday about how COVID and the vaccine have been politicized in the United States.

“At the end of the day, if you get COVID and die. The politics won’t matter anymore. You’re going to be leaving your family behind and other people are going to be grieving the loss,” Dr. Saag said.

And with cases rising, experts urge people to get vaccinated so everyone can be safe during this winter spike.

“So, protect yourself and also protect your family by getting vaccinated,” Dr. Saag said.

Experts urge people to wear masks while indoors and avoid large gatherings. Masks continue to show they work in limiting spread of the virus. Dr. Saag says it’s important to be vaccinated and wearing a mask around those who could be immunocompromised.