BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WIAT) – The percent of positive tests is averaging at some of the highest numbers we have seen this far in the pandemic – Alabama on Friday sitting at 46.3 percent.

CBS 42’s Art Franklin had an opportunity to ask UAB’s new CEO Dr. Selwyn Vickers about the burden on healthcare as a whole and what it would take for us to reach an endemic.

Vickers said he continues to be grateful for the resiliency of medical workers here and across the country who keep fighting to get people home and reach an end to this pandemic.

“I’m encouraged by the fact that people don’t get as sick,” Vickers said.

At the height of Delta, Vickers said we saw 6,000 cases a day with almost 120 deaths per day. Now, he said cases may be at 8,000 with Omicron and only seven deaths.

“This seems to be an unending battle that they face and that they face to some degree greater than other parts of our country because so few of citizens in our country are vaccinated,” Vickers said.

This is a fight nursing homes are working hard against now. The Alabama Nursing Home Association reports nearly half of the COVID-related deaths this year have been people 75 and up. It is stepping up screening efforts so families can see their loved ones.

“It’s so good for the emotional health of the individual living in the nursing home and it’s very helpful for the staff because if we’ve noticed something with their loved one, we can talk about it with their family member and find out the best way to address it,” John Maston from the Alabama Nursing Home Association said.

Vickers said mental health has been taxed of workers across hospital systems – causing many to leave the industry – he says because of the burden of the unvaccinated.

“Until we can get those global citizens vaccinated, we’re going to be at the risk of variants – what’s the next one going to be? The hope is they fizzle out and they don’t become like Delta, and they become more, even less like Omicron,” Vickers said.

Vickers is hopeful we start moving toward an endemic stage by spring. He also said we need to redefine what being fully vaccinated means – ensuring people are getting their booster shots.