© 2021 WYSO
Our Community. Our Nation. Our World.
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00
0:00
Available On Air Stations
NPR News

There Were More Deaths Than Births In Alabama Last Year, A Grim First For The State

Dr. Scott Harris, Alabama's State Health Officer, discusses his state's vaccination data on June 29, 2021, in Montgomery, Alabama. He said last week that the state saw more deaths than births in 2020, for the first time in more than a century.
Dr. Scott Harris, Alabama's State Health Officer, discusses his state's vaccination data on June 29, 2021, in Montgomery, Alabama. He said last week that the state saw more deaths than births in 2020, for the first time in more than a century.

Updated September 21, 2021 at 6:23 AM ET

In 2020, for the first time in recorded history, more people died in Alabama than were born in the state.

"Our state literally shrunk," Dr. Scott Harris, the state's top health official, said at a press briefing last week.

The state saw some 64,714 total deaths last year, Harris said, compared with about 57,641 births. Those numbers are preliminary, and officials will confirm them toward the end of this year.

Alabama hasn't hit such a milestone in more than 100 years, not even during World War II, Harris noted.

The coronavirus, which is spreading in Alabama as well as much of the country, is what's behind those numbers.

The delta variant currently circulating is putting a strain on critical health care systems in Alabama, as the state currently doesn't have enough ICU beds for those who need them.

Still, some politicians there 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 is fully vaccinated, according to NPR's tracker. Harris said at the briefing that the state "continues to do a pretty good job" in that regard. Nationally, 54.6% of the total U.S. population is fully vaccinated.

And the 2020 milestone may not be unique for long. Alabama could see higher 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.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Corrected: September 21, 2021 at 12:00 AM EDT
An earlier version of this story incorrectly attributed the rise in deaths last year to the delta variant. In fact, it was the coronavirus more broadly; the delta variant began circulating widely in 2021.