The big “O”

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How would T-Town fare in the new year?

One thing that had cast its shadow on the horizon of 2022 was the COVID Omicron variant — the big “O”.

Alabama, at the end of 2021, had been classified as being at high risk of COVID transmission.

On December 23, 2021, Birmingham Watch‘s Virginia Martin wrote: “The state has a 12% positivity rate, meaning 12 of every 100 COVID tests returned positive results. That’s more than double the rate at the beginning of the month.”

Alabama Political Reporter‘s Eddie Burkhalter had reported: “Public health experts say the percentage positivity should be at or below five percent or cases are going undetected. Alabama’s average daily percent positivity over the week ending Dec. 15 was 5.5 percent, and by Tuesday had increased to 9.7 percent.” He also had written: “Alabama has the third-lowest percentage of residents fully vaccinated against COVID-19 in the nation, and the second-highest COVID death rate per capita, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.”

On December 26, 2021, ABC/33 NewsDiamond Nunnally had given an assessment by the Alabama Department of Public Heath:

“The entire state is now at a high-risk of community transmission. Not every county is high-risk, but majority of counties are,” said ADPH District Medical Officer Dr. Wes Stubblefield.

“The last time I saw, we only had four that had been typed but we would assume this is all Omicron and it’s just increasing and going through the population, potentially the vaccinated and the unvaccinated,” Stubblefield said.

From USAToday Tracking Map– December 22, 2021

Alabama Political Reporter‘s Eddie Burkhalter had Tweeted on December 27, 2021 that Alabama had experienced a 198% growth in its 7 day average of daily positivity over two weeks. (18.2% on December 26, 2021)

Gary Cosby, Jr., in the Tuscaloosa News, had reported on how local leaders had responded to the COVID pandemic since March 2020.

He had interviewed Tuscaloosa‘s Mayor Walt Maddox:

“It’s hard to say, but, yes, knowing what I know now, we would have probably implemented a citywide mask ordinance instead of looking at different types of curfews or shutting down different types of businesses or activities. Today, we know that wearing the mask is one of the great ways to mitigate the virus itself and keep society moving. We didn’t know that then. In fact, early on it was told to us by federal and state officials that masking wasn’t going to be that effective. In their defense, I think they were trying to prevent a run on masks to save them for the medical community. But the mask in and of itself would have been able to limit the number of restrictions that were put in place.”

On December 23, 2021, Kaiser Health News had provided information about how COVID had been impacting colleges and universities.

News outlets report more educational establishments have chosen to shift to remote learning when the spring term starts, in the face of covid outbreaks. Other reports say college football is in “chaos” over game forfeits due to the pandemic, and the potential impact of omicron surges on the championship.

Columbia University, Duke University and the University of California at Los Angeles will start with remote classes in January, part of a growing number of colleges choosing a temporary pivot online as coronavirus cases rise and the omicron variant spreads nationally. (Svrluga/Washington Post))

The organizers of the biggest games of the college football season have reached a decision that once would have sounded completely ridiculous: The winner of the national championship this season may not even have to step onto the field. With the Omicron variant surging, the possibility of disruption to the college bowl season is high. On Wednesday, for example, Texas A&M said it doesn’t have enough available scholarship players and will no longer play in the Gator Bowl, which is scheduled to be held on Dec. 31 in Jacksonville, Fla. (Wall Street Journal)

In December 2021, in T-Town, to many people, little had seemed to matter more than the College Football Playoffs.

Bama Central‘s Katie Windham had reported on Alabama Football coach Nick Saban‘s presser prior to the Cotton Bowl in Dallas. When he had been asked about the impact of COVID on two members of his coaching staff who had tested positive, Saban said:

[W]e’re using the same protocols that we used in the past, you know, for COVID situations, and they will do all their work and coaching virtually with players, very similarly to the way I did it when I tested positive before the Auburn game a year ago. They will join us, I think, the evening of the 29th or 30th, or whenever their time is up, before the game. So, they’ll be here for the game, and, you know, I think that they’re both doing well. No one is, you know, really that bad sick that they can’t function and do things that they need to do with our players.

Saban also said that the whole team had been vaccinated and 92% of the players have had the booster shot for COVID.

The Crimson White‘s Ainsley Platt had reported in November 2021, that the University of Alabama had lifted its mask mandate, in spite of high transmission rates in the surrounding area of Tuscaloosa County. Throughout the nation, in response to the Omicron variant, colleges had been requiring that students not only have been vaccinated but have received booster shots as well. It was highly possible that most students at the University of Alabama had not even been fully vaccinated. The University’s Covid-19 Dashboard had never provided that information.

In the Utah newspaper, the Daily Herald, Ashtyn Asay had opined: “With the spread of the Omicron variant, and COVID-19 cases at an all-time high in states across the U.S., the future feels uncertain as we head toward the new year.” The Utah County Health Department had been urging citizens to wear masks indoors, maintain a distance of 6 feet from others, and to get vaccinated.

There had doubtlessly been the same uncertainly about the pandemic in T-Town about the new year.


3 thoughts on “The big “O”

  1.‘s Ruth Serven Smith reported on December 29, 2021 that Auburn University and UAB were requiring universal masking in January. The staff of WBRC reported: “Dr. Mark Wilson, Health Officer for Jefferson County, said as the Omicron COVID variant spreads, it’s recommended everyone wear a mask indoors in public settings.” In Florida, as reported by the Tallahassee Democrat‘s Ryan Dailey, “top Florida public university system officials are asking students and employees to wear masks on campus and get booster shots to protect against COVID-19.” The officials said that it was “clear the pandemic is not over.”

  2. On December 29,‘s Ramsey Archibald wrote: “Alabama is closing 2021 on one of the most furious COVID surges it’s seen in the nearly two years since the pandemic began.

    “The state added nearly 6,000 new COVID cases to its database on Wednesday alone – one of the worst single days since the virus first emerged here in March of 2020. And the state’s positivity rate – the percent of tests that have come back positive over the past seven days – reached an all-time high on Tuesday of 27%, according to data from the Alabama Department of Public Health.

    “The surge in positivity rate is unprecedented. From Dec. 12 to Dec. 27 the rate went from 5.8% to 27%. That’s an increase of 366% in just 15 days. For comparison, at the start of the delta wave back in July, what was then the steepest curve yet saw a 269% increase in 25 days, from July 3 to July 27.

    “The state’s 7-day average for new cases has increased at a similarly alarming rate over the last week.

    “Cases were increasing steadily just before Christmas, but in the days leading up to the holiday, that trend started accelerating. In the days after, it’s jumped into overdrive.”

  3. On December 30,‘s Ramsey Archibald reported: “The Alabama Department of Public Health reported 8,256 new COVID-19 cases Thursday – the most ever in a day that wasn’t affected by data delays.

    “The state also posted a new all-time high for positivity rate – the percent of COVID tests performed that come back positive. The number reported Thursday was 31.4%, the first time ever it’s been above 30%, and 4.4 percentage points higher than the previous day’s record-breaking number.”

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