Alabama population on course to shrink for first time ever as Covid takes toll

State’s chief medical officer says ‘Our state literally shrunk in 2020’ as deaths exceeded births

Alabama is shrinking under the onslaught of Covid-19, its chief medical officer said, as deaths in the state outnumber births for the very first time.

Speaking to reporters in Montgomery on Friday, Dr Scott Harris said: “Here in Alabama, we continue to see deaths at a really high rate … 2020 is going to be the first year that we know of in the history of our state where we actually had more deaths than births.

“Our state literally shrunk in 2020, based on the numbers that we have managed to put together, and actually by quite a bit.”

Harris said Alabama had recorded a preliminary total of 64,714 deaths in 2020, compared with 57,641 births.

“We have data going back to the first decade of the 20th century, so more than 100 years, and that’s never happened before, nor has it ever even been close before. In world war two or during the flu pandemic of 1918, or world war one, we’ve never had a time where deaths exceed births until this past year.

“It’s certainly possible that could happen this year as well if we continue in the same rate that we’re seeing now.”

According to Johns Hopkins University, 13,210 people have died of Covid-19 in Alabama. The US death toll is more than 673,000, just short of official estimates for the US death toll in the pandemic of 1918.

Vaccination rates have increased as businesses and public authorities introduce mandates and strengthen outreach but resistance to the shots and other public health measures remains strong in Republican-controlled states, Alabama among them.

The infectious Delta variant continues to fuel high numbers of cases. The vast majority of hospitalisations and deaths in the US are among unvaccinated people.

Harris said more than 1.9 million Alabamians were now fully vaccinated, more than 50% of the eligible population.

But, he said, “We’re continuing to have double-digit numbers of deaths reported on most days … Over the past several days [we have had] typically 40 or 50 or sometimes 60 deaths a day.”

He said seven pregnant women in Alabama had died from Covid-19, adding: “We actually have, on average, for the past week about 23 pregnant women who are hospitalised with Covid.”

Harris said Alabama was “seeing a little bit of a decline in our total numbers of hospitalisations, that’s certainly a good thing”.

But, he said, “We still have more patients requiring critical care than we have critical care beds … we don’t have any available [intensive care] beds in Alabama.

“And that’s a really challenging problem just for people with non-Covid illnesses or people who have a stroke or heart attack or a car accident today. It’s going to be very challenging to figure out where you can get critical care if you need it.”

Harris added: “I would just say, very respectfully and with compassion, you know, there are two ways people leave the hospital and one of them is not very good.”


Martin Pengelly in New York

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
Trump stages Alabama rally as state struggles with Covid surge
Ex-president backs Mo Brooks, who is running for Senate and sympathised with man who threatened to blow up US Capitol

Martin Pengelly in New York

22, Aug, 2021 @12:06 PM

Article image
Alarm as US Covid cases above 100,000 a day for first time since February
Seven-day hospital admissions average up 40% from week before as Mississippi health official says Delta surging ‘like a tsunami’

Amanda Holpuch in New York and agencies

06, Aug, 2021 @7:08 PM

Article image
'A perfect storm': poverty and race add to Covid-19 toll in US deep south
Whole families are falling victim as African Americans are hit disproportionately hard by the coronavirus pandemic

Oliver Laughland

12, Apr, 2020 @6:00 AM

Article image
Black community tackles vaccine hesitancy in Alabama but Trump supporters resist
Local officials have worked to overcome Black fears rooted in the notorious Tuskegee study but Trump-supporting rural areas are another matter

Oliver Laughland in Tuskegee and Florala

03, Jun, 2021 @6:00 AM

Article image
Oregon governor to send troops to help hospitals as Covid surges
Governor says ‘I cannot emphasize enough the seriousness of this crisis’ as Texas and Florida make up 40% of US hospitalizations

Oliver Laughland in New Orleans

14, Aug, 2021 @12:41 AM

Article image
Amazon workers in Alabama vote against forming company’s first union
Workers at Bessemer warehouse reject joining RWDSU but legal challenge looks inevitable due to high number of contested ballots

Michael Sainato

09, Apr, 2021 @3:31 PM

Article image
Alabama plans to use Covid relief funds to finance prison-building spree
Decarceration advocates urge lawmakers to consider sentencing reform instead as prisons have seen high rates of Covid outbreaks

Melody Schreiber

29, Sep, 2021 @9:00 AM

Article image
Trump booed after telling supporters to get Covid vaccine
Former president held rally in Cullman, Alabama, a city struggling to cope with cases and hospitalisations

Martin Pengelly and agencies

22, Aug, 2021 @4:30 PM

Article image
‘Death by structural poverty’: US south struggles against Covid-19
Poor access to healthcare, failed political leadership and the endurance of segregation and racism have contributed to a surge in deaths

Oliver Laughland in Alabama and Mississippi

05, Aug, 2020 @6:00 AM

Article image
Data from US south shows African Americans hit hardest by Covid-19
Louisiana reports 70% of coronavirus deaths are black while Alabama says African Americans dying at disproportionate rate

Lauren Zanolli in New Orleans

08, Apr, 2020 @7:46 PM