(WDHN) — The state of Alabama has seen a spike in COVID-19 cases reaching over 850,000 and deaths totaling over 16,000.

“I think it’s reasonable to attribute what we’re seeing now probably to the Thanksgiving holiday I think it’s Delta variant certainly not omicron at this point,” said Dr. Don Williamson, the president of the Alabama Hospital Association.

According to Dr. Don Williamson, the latest numbers show the state is averaging 500-600 cases a day and 346 hospitalizations — 120 in the ICU- which is twice the number prior to the spike.

Dr. Williamson is concerned especially with the state’s full vaccination rate lower than 50%, positivity rates for counties are continuing to rise, and Alabamians preparing for Christmas and New Year – a huge time to travel.

“The greatest concern has to be those individuals who have not been vaccinated delta is still prevalent if you’re traveling to the north, Michigan, Illinois the upper midwest you’re at great risk,” Dr. Willamson said.

Therefore, health leaders are strongly encouraging the unvaccinated to roll up their sleeves to begin the process immediately. For those vaccinated, it’s critical to seek a booster shot.

“If you get a booster your antibodies skyrocket they go dramatically higher that’s why the booster is so effective in reducing your risk not only of severe disease but for the infection,” Dr. WIlliamson said.

Dr. Willamson fears there will be a winter surge after the holidays and COVID-19 could stick around for another five years.

In the meantime, he believes the unvaccinated and vaccinated should continue to wear a mask for holiday work gatherings or vacations because they are deemed very effective.