Elijah Nouvelage / AFP via Getty Images
For the first time in recorded history, more people died in Alabama in 2020 than people born in the state.
“Our state has literally shrunk,” Dr Scott Harris, the state’s top health official, said at a press briefing last week.
The state recorded some 64,714 total deaths last year, Harris said, up from about 57,641 births. These figures are only preliminary and officials will confirm them towards the end of this year.
Alabama hasn’t reached such a milestone in over 100 years, even during World War II, Harris noted.
Behind the numbers is the highly transmissible delta variant of the coronavirus that is spreading in Alabama, as well as much of the county.
This is straining critical health systems in Alabama as the state currently does not have enough intensive care beds for those in need.
Yet some politicians continue to push back on vaccines. Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall joined other GOP attorneys general last week in threatening to sue the White House over its recent vaccine mandate plans.
Some 41.3% of Alabama’s population are fully vaccinated, according to the NPR tracker. Harris said at the briefing that the state “continues to do a very good job” in this regard. Nationally, 54.6% of the total United States population is fully vaccinated.
And the 2020 milestone may not be unique soon. Alabama could see more deaths than births again in 2021 if the state continues on its current grim trajectory.
This story originally appeared on the Morning edition live blog.