For the first time in Alabama’s known history, the state had more deaths than births in 2020 — a grim milestone that underscores the pandemic’s catastrophic toll.
“Our state has literally shrunk in 2020,” said Dr. Scott Harris, Alabama State Health Officer, on a news conference on Friday. There were a total of 64,714 deaths in the state last year, compared with 57,641 births, said Dr. Harris.
Such a gap had never been recorded, even during World War I, World War II and the 1918 flu pandemic, said Dr. Harris. Going back to the earliest available data, in 1900, “We’ve never had a time when the number of deaths exceeded the number of births,” he said.
Nationally, the birth rate fell in 2020 for the sixth year in a row, and some experts say the pandemic may be accelerating that trend. A study of the University of New Hampshire found that half of the 50 U.S. states had more deaths than births in 2020, compared to just five states with more deaths than births in 2019.
Last year, 7,182 deaths were officially attributed to Covid in Alabama, according to data from the Alabama Department of Public Health.
On Wednesday, in a town hall discussion with Al.com, Alabama’s largest digital news site, Dr. Harris arguments that Covid deaths were misrepresented.
“We’re getting skeptical people saying, ‘Oh well, those were just older people who were going to die anyway, and you’re just blaming their deaths on Covid,'” he said. “That is not the case.”
Alabama recently averaged about 60 deaths per day, according to a New York Times database, and only 41 percent of the state’s eligible population is fully vaccinated.
The complete vaccination rate in Alabama is comparable to that of Idaho, making it the third lowest rate in the country. The two that score lower are Wyoming and West Virginia.
Alabama Governor Kay Ivey has urged the people of her state to get Covid vaccinations, but like many Republicans, she objected when President Biden recently announced vaccine mandates, calling them “outrageous” and “overreaching”.