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