BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WIAT) — Alabama State Health Officer once again made the case for Alabamians to get vaccinated after the state saw over 5,000 new cases of COVID-19 Friday.

Dr. Harris was very emotional Friday during his weekly press briefing in Montgomery. He discussed the latest numbers regarding the virus which echoed his belief the state is in a dire situation.

“We’re really in a crisis situation. We’ve said that over and over for several weeks. We need people to understand that you yourself, if you’re hearing these words, you’re the person who can make a difference. You need to be responsible for your behavior. You need to do what it takes to not continue this situation,” he said. “I don’t know how much longer we’re going to be able to do this.” 

Compared to this time last year, Alabama has seen a 700% increase in children being infected by the virus, Dr. Harris said. The number of ICU beds available in hospitals across the state also remains at a net negative.

“So much of what we’re seeing is preventable. We’ve worked on this for a year and a half. We have hospitals with nurses and doctors who have been doing this nonstop. We’re seeing this because people don’t want to get vaccinated. They don’t want to change their behavior. They would rather have an argument about masks than have an argument about how do we keep our children safe or how do we protect Alabama hospitals. It’s very frustrating for all of us,” Dr. Harris said. 

Echoing the words of Gov. Kay Ivey from July, the state health officer was at a loss of what the state can do to get people to get their shots and follow recommendations from health officials.

“I don’t know what to tell you,” he said. “I’d say we’re open to suggestions on that. We feel like we’ve given people the very best information we can. We’re not gonna mandate that people go out and get the vaccine. At least the state of Alabama is not going to do that…We don’t know how to convince people to take good advice.”

“We understand people have made this some issue about personal choice and we respect people’s personal choice but you know there are right choices and there are wrong choices. If you’re not getting vaccinated you’re making the wrong choice,” he said.

Dr. Harris said that Alabama has seen double-digit deaths due to COVID-19 every day for nearly the past three weeks.

“Ultimately, if we don’t have enough people vaccinated, this will never go away. Please do your part,” he said. 

You can watch the full press briefing in the video player above.