BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WIAT) — Health leaders across Alabama said the number of COVID-19 cases we are seeing now may be higher than what is being reported statewide.

On Monday, the Alabama Department of Public Health reported 2,960 new infections since Friday with 229 people being treated for the virus at hospitals statewide. Officials said with more people taking at home COVID-19 tests, the number of positive cases we are seeing might be much higher because at-home tests are not reported to the state.

About one month ago, the average case count was about 200 across the state. Now, Jefferson County is averaging that every day.

The Alabama Department of Public Health is reporting a 7-day positivity rate of 18% statewide. Meanwhile, the Jefferson County Department of Health is reporting 21.1% positivity in the county.

“We can’t relax and say we’re done because we’re not,” Alabama Hospital Association President Don Williamson said. “We’re absolutely seeing more transmission.”

According to Williamson, case counts will likely continue to rise, but this time things are different.

“We have higher rates of immunity either naturally acquired and vaccine-induced,” Williamson said  

At this point, Williamson said it is more important to focus on positivity percentage trends than actual case counts because they show the bigger picture.

“Hospitalizations are not raising anything like they were at the rate they did with either Delta or before the first Omicron outbreaks,” Williamson said.

That hospitalization number is key. Two months ago, about 50 people were in the hospital but now that number is closer to 230.

“We just want to make sure that people are as protected as possible as we move into a time period where we might see some more cases of COVID-19 out there in the community,” Dr. Wesley Willeford from the Jefferson County Health Department said.

Willeford said the best way to keep hospitalizations low is to get your booster or second booster if you are eligible. He says this is especially important as the world descends upon the Birmingham metro area in the next three weeks.

“Go into the World Games with as much protection as you can,” Willeford said.

Both Willeford and Williamson say large groups will likely increase those hospitalizations, but right now, Williamson said it is manageable.

“We are in a much better position than we ever have been, so I think that’s really a positive and give me hope that this surge is not going to be like anything we’ve seen before,” Williamson said.

According to Williamson, there is not nearly as much staff to care for patients if COVID hospitalizations reach the thousands as they did previously.

Officials from the World Games say they are monitoring the pandemic and will have masks available for spectators. They sent the following statement to CBS 42:

“The World Games 2022 continues working with local, state, national and international officials and health experts to ensure the Games are safe and secure for the athletes, spectators, media and others who will attend. Working with these partners, we closely monitor the status of COVID-19 cases and will follow health and safety guidance of local public health authorities. All travelers to the United States are required to provide proof of vaccination and COVID protocols for all athletes, coaches and officials residing at the Athlete Villages are being finalized. In addition, masks will be available to all attendees who request masks. The World Games 2022 will utilize available funding for these and other important measures to protect public health.”