UAB infectious disease doctor: Mask up and vaccinate as COVID cases surge

Local News
October 02 2021 06:00 pm

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WIAT) – Health experts are pleading for people in Alabama to get the COVID-19 vaccine as the state still ranks last in the nation in vaccine rates.

With only a third of the state population fully vaccinated, the Delta variant is running rampant.

On Wednesday, the state reported 563,943 total cases of coronavirus since March 2020, including 1,632 new cases since Tuesday. The virus has now killed 11,462 people in Alabama and hospitals across the state are treating 602 patients for COVID-19, up nearly 50 patients from Tuesday.

“For those of you who are still unvaccinated, let’s do it, right now,” UAB infectious disease expert Dr. Michael Saag said don’t wait until it’s too late to protect yourself from COVID.

He said it’s not time to throw away your mask yet, whether you are vaccinated or not, because the Delta variant can latch on in your body after being around an infected person in under a minute.

Saag said the new strain is hitting 18- to 35-year-olds worse this time because they are less than a quarter vaccinated. More than 85 percent of the elderly population has been vaccinated.

“What I thought was going to be a bump in cases after July 4, this is a genuine surge and it’s really impacting mostly unvaccinated people,” Saag said. “Time is running out, we’re all in harm’s way, and we need to get this taken care of.”

Cases of the virus are well over 700 percent higher than they were two weeks ago, Saag said. Because the Delta variant mutations have spikes on them, they are more likely to get caught in your body, making COVID 10 times easier to catch.

“A vaccine won’t do much at all once someone’s infected and they’re sick enough to be in the hospital,” Saag said.

To protect yourself and everyone else, Saag said you should be wearing a mask in public right now.

“It’s really up to our policymakers to make mandates, but what I think the infectious disease community here and throughout the state is saying pretty uniformly to everyone, we are in a new crisis, this is a five-alarm fire,” he said.

We’ll be getting an update from the Jefferson County Department of Health on Thursday on where things stand for the county and if mask regulations will be necessary to control the virus.

Saag’s best advice, for now, is to mask up, vaccinate, and don’t wait until it’s too late. If you do end up testing positive for the virus, he said to contact your doctor immediately to see if you can get monoclonal antibodies to help you better fight the disease. They must be administered two to four days after getting infected.

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