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Alabama extends mask mandate amid high COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations – National News

Pgiam/iStockBy MEREDITH DELISO, ABC News

(MONTGOMERY, Ala.) — Alabama is grappling with surging deaths as COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations remain high and intensive care unit capacity is stretched.

The state reported record numbers of new cases and hospitalizations following the holidays. At one point last week, only 39 ICU beds were available statewide.

This week has already been the deadliest of the pandemic in the state, according to an analysis by The COVID Tracking Project.

“I’m forever an optimist, it’s going to get better. But I’m kind of tired of doing death certificates,” Dr. Julia Boothe, a rural family medicine physician in Pickens County in western Alabama, told ABC News. “I’ve done a whole lot over the past few months. I do them in an online system, and unfortunately I have my password memorized because we’ve just had to do a lot.”

The state’s seven-day average for new daily COVID-19 cases was 2,666 as of Wednesday, officials said.

“That’s far below the spike in cases recorded earlier this month following Christmas, but way above averages recorded two, three, even four months ago,” Gov. Kay Ivey said during a press briefing Thursday announcing that the state’s mask mandate will be extended through March 5 due to the latest trends.

Alabama has one of the highest COVID-19 hospitalization rates nationwide, according to The COVID Tracking Project, behind only Arizona, Nevada, Georgia and California.

Currently, the state has 4% of its ICU capacity available, down from 6% two weeks ago, according to Johns Hopkins University.

As case numbers and hospitalizations have recently started to decline, ICU capacity and ventilator use hasn’t improved at the same rate, Dr. Donald Williamson, president of the Alabama Hospital Association, told ABC News.

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