Thrasher said he is telling his friend’s story with the family’s permission in the hopes that people can learn just how easily the virus can spread at casual gatherings. He said it is also important to seek medical care when they first get sick.

Alabama and much of the country is seeing a surge in COVID-19 cases following Thanksgiving gatherings. The state in the last two weeks has set records for the number of cases reported each day and the number of people in state hospitals with COVID-19.

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The state health department has reported more than 276,000 confirmed and probable virus cases and at least 3942 confirmed and probable virus deaths in Alabama. While the virus causes only mild or moderate symptoms in most people, it can be deadly for the elderly and people with other, serious health problems.

The hope generated by the imminent arrival of the vaccine is tempered by what medical officials fear will be unchecked spread before it becomes widely available.

“I can see the light at the end of the tunnel, but I can also see the locomotive coming at me,” Thrasher said.

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“The next four months are going to see more devastation and catastrophic problems with public health than we’ve seen probably since 1918. It is going to be very, very bad.”

Dixon was the executive director of the Alabama Board of Medical Examiners from 1981 until his retirement in 2016. A Republican, Dixon was elected to the Alabama House of Representatives in 1978 and the Alabama Senate in 1983. He retired from the Alabama Legislature in 2010.

Virtually every state is reporting surges just as a vaccine appears days away from getting the go-ahead in the US.

Nationally, deaths from COVID-19 in the US have soared to more than 2200 a day on average, matching the frightening peak reached last April, and cases per day have eclipsed 200,000 on average for the first time on record, with the crisis all but certain to get worse because of the fallout from Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s.

“The epidemic in the US is punishing. It’s widespread. It’s quite frankly shocking to see one to two persons a minute die in the US — a country with a wonderful, strong health system, amazing technological capacities,” said Dr. Michael Ryan, the World Health Organisation’s chief of emergencies.

The virus is blamed for more than 280,000 deaths and almost 15 million confirmed infections in the United States.

AP

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