Siri Hedreen / The Outlook

PPE stock is dwindling at the Alexander City Walgreens as of Thursday morning.

It's 90 degrees and humid and yet suddenly it's starting to feel a lot like January.

Last week, First Baptist Church pastor Dr. Steve King announced Sunday's service would be online-only after 20 church members tested positive for COVID-19. On Wednesday, Alexander City Schools superintendent Dr. Keith Lankford had to tune in to the school board meeting via Zoom due to being in quarantine for COVID-19 exposure.

Meanwhile, the 14-day average for new COVID-19 cases have been on a steady four-week rise in Alabama, the longest stretch since January (albeit nowhere near as steep). Tallapoosa County has seen 88 new COVID-19 cases since the beginning of July and is now averaging six new cases per day, a three-fold increase just in the past three weeks according to the latest Alabama Department of Public Health (ADPH) data.

On Thursday, ADPH changed Tallapoosa County's status to "very high risk" for COVID-19 transmission, reflecting an increase in the COVID-19 positivity rate.  

Statewide, 367 patients are hospitalized with coronavirus as of Thursday, up from 195 the previous month. Alexander City's Russell Medical Center is also facing an incline with an average of five out of its six ICU beds occupied at any given time during the past week, according to U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services Data.

Meanwhile, the CDC reports Alabama is the least vaccinated state in the nation, with only 33.4% of Alabamians fully vaccinated compared with a 48.2% nationwide average. Tallapoosa and Coosa counties fall just below the state average with a respective 33.2% and 30.5% of the population fully vaccinated.

Public health experts are blaming the spread on a combination of lagging vaccination rates and the new Delta variant of COVID-19, which Public Health England estimates is 60% more contagious than the original strain. Unvaccinated people are still at much higher risk — in an Alabama Hospital Association survey earlier this month, 94% of COVID-19 in-patients had not been vaccinated.

To date, 4,264 Tallapoosa County residents have tested positive for COVID-19, more than one in 10 residents. A total of 156 residents have died, including 15 presumed to have had COVID.