COVID testing

Positive cases of COVID-19 are on the rise in the area.

The omicron variant of COVID-19 is affecting many. Not only are cases rising steeply, use of the monoclonal antibody infusion used for the delta variant has been suspended by many medical organizations.

In Tallapoosa County alone, lines have developed at most medical offices offering COVID-19 tests and Russell Medical is no different.

“Since we have had the drive-thru testing center open again on Dec. 30 we have had 401 positive cases come through — that is through 5 p.m. Tuesday,” Russell Medical director of marketing Susan Foy said. “Everytime you look right now at the testing center it is backed up.”

Foy said the positivity rate is up as well, floating at approximately 30 percent for Russell Medical. Statewide the Alabama Department of Public Health (ADPH) is reporting a positivity rate of approximately 38 percent.

Russell Medical’s testing results don’t necessarily equate to cases in Tallapoosa County. Russell Medical sees patients from Clay, Coosa, Elmore and Lee counties as well. Patients who test positive would see their cases reported in the county of residence.

ADPH is reporting a spike for Tallapoosa County. Since Dec. 27 the state health agency is reporting 431 new cases of COVID-19. ADPH’s numbers do not reflect cases Russell Medical tested on Tuesday and some from Monday.

State Health Officer Dr. Scott Harris updated the public Tuesday on the COVID-19 pandemic as the state’s seven-day average for new cases rose to more than 6,000 per day Monday. The 6,139 average is the highest during the pandemic in Alabama.

“The take-home point from what’s going on right now is that the omicron variant that is becoming the predominant variant in this country is incredibly contagious,” Harris said. “It is much more contagious than the delta variant. It is many times more contagious than anything we have seen before, many orders of magnitude more contagious than the original strain that we had almost two years ago. And it is just spreading like wildfire. It will infect everyone in this state at some point, probably, or most of them.”

The holidays traditionally see employees from business take time off to be with their families. This past holiday season was no exception. Even medical facilities schedule fewer elective medical procedures as staff takes time off. But with the rise of the omicron variant, it's even affecting staff at medical institutions.

“COVID appears to be everywhere right,” Foy said. “We have some staff out because they tested positive.”

The omicron variant is also affecting a favorite treatment — monoclonal antibody infusion. With previous variants, patients receiving the treatment have had good success in recovering. But the monoclonal antibody infusion isn’t very effective against the omicron variant. Like many other health institutions in Alabama, such as East Alabama Health, Russell Medical has suspended the antibody treatment for the time being until more is shipped.

“We are awaiting the newer version,” Foy said. “Sotrovimab is the new infusion treatment effective against the omnicron variant and we hope to have some soon.”

Harris said Tuesday Alabama is expected to get 420 doses of the new infusion treatment next week.

Cliff Williams is a staff writer for Tallapoosa Publishers.

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