Covid-19 Cases Going Up Nationwide In ‘Concerning’ Trend — Here’s Where They’re The Highest

Topline

The seven-day average of Covid-19 cases in the U.S. has gone up by approximately 11% since last week and hospitalizations by 7%, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said Thursday, as the more transmissible Delta variant fuels new surges across the country—particularly in states where vaccination rates remain low.

Key Facts

The states with the highest Covid-19 cases per capita are Arkansas (18 cases per 100,000 people), Missouri (17 cases), Louisiana (13 cases), Nevada (13 cases), Florida (12 cases), Utah (11 cases), Wyoming (11 cases), Mississippi (seven cases), Kansas (seven cases) and Arizona (seven cases), according to public health data compiled by the New York Times.

Of those states, Arkansas, Missouri, Louisiana, Utah, Wyoming and Mississippi also have among the top 10 lowest vaccination rates in the U.S.—and less than 50% of the population is fully vaccinated in the other states with the highest case rates—while Vermont has both the highest vaccination rate and lowest number of cases per capita.

Covid-19 cases have risen over the past two weeks in 31 states plus Washington, D.C., the Times reports, with cases spiking by over 100% in South Carolina (135%), Kansas (120%), Nebraska (117%), Tennessee (106%) and Louisiana (101%).

Hospitalizations are going up in 19 states, and are highest per capita in Missouri, Nevada, Arkansas, Florida and Wyoming.

Covid-19 deaths, which typically lag behind cases and hospitalizations, have gone down by 40% nationwide over the past 14 days, the Times reports, and are highest per capita in 10 of the states where less than 45% of the population is fully vaccinated: Missouri, Arizona, Mississippi, Arkansas, Nevada, Alabama, Wyoming, Kentucky, Indiana and Louisiana.

Cases, hospitalizations and deaths are still far below where they were before vaccines were widely available, and while breakthrough Covid-19 infections are possible among fully vaccinated people but rare, nearly all deaths so far appear to be among unvaccinated Americans.

Big Number

51.7%. That’s the estimated percentage of Covid-19 cases in the U.S. linked to the Delta variant as of July 3, according to the CDC, though Walensky said in some areas of the country as much as 80% of cases are linked to the strain. That national percentage could be an underestimate given a lag in the time it takes for labs to report test results to the CDC, with Walensky acknowledging Thursday that while the figure is the “best estimate at this point,” it “has some uncertainty around it.”

Crucial Quote

“Widespread vaccination is what will truly turn the corner on this pandemic,” Walensky said Thursday, calling the rise in cases and hospitalizations “new and concerning trends” that are particularly linked to areas with low vaccination rates. “Please know if you are not vaccinated, you remain susceptible, especially from the transmissible Delta variant, and are particularly at risk for severe illness and death.”

Surprising Fact

While some states are seeing significant spikes in their Covid-19 case rates, cases are skyrocketing even higher in several U.S. counties. The Times reports cases have gone up by more than 2,000% over the past two weeks in four counties in Mississippi, Arkansas, Illinois and Oklahoma, and cases have spiked by more than 1,000% in an additional six counties—nearly all of which have fewer than 40% of residents fully vaccinated.

Contra

While Covid-19 case data shows a broad correlation between vaccinations and case rates, there are some exceptions. California’s cases have increased by 70% over the past two weeks, the ninth highest rate of any state, despite a relatively higher vaccination rate (51% of population fully vaccinated), for instance. West Virginia also has a relatively low case rate (two cases per 100,000 people) and cases have decreased by 19%, despite having the ninth lowest vaccination rate in the country.

Tangent

Walensky and Dr. Anthony Fauci both doubled down Thursday on their insistence that the fully vaccinated are protected against the virus without masks, suggesting the CDC won’t change its mask guidance despite the rise in cases and conflicting recommendations from the World Health Organization. “You have the option of making your personal choice of whether or not you would like to wear a mask,” Fauci said about the fully vaccinated, but emphasized, “If you are vaccinated, you have a very high degree of protection and therefore you do not need to wear a mask.” The public health experts emphasized that guidance does not apply to those who aren’t fully vaccinated, however, with Walensky saying those Americans are “definitively not protected” from Covid-19 and it’s still suggested they mask up. 

Key Background

The U.S.’s rise in cases follows numerous other countries now seeing surges linked to the Delta variant, including ones like Israel and the United Kingdom where vaccination rates are high. The Delta variant is considered to be between 40% to 60% more transmissible than the Alpha variant first identified in the United Kingdom, and one study found the strain could be twice as likely to result in hospitalization than the Alpha variant. Multiple studies have suggested every available Covid-19 vaccine is largely protective against the Delta variant, particularly against severe disease and death, while unvaccinated groups like children are the most susceptible to the strain. Despite the Delta variant, vaccine hesitancy in the U.S. remains high, however, particularly among demographics like Republicans and young adults

Further Reading

Kids Among Most Vulnerable To Infectious Delta Variant — Here’s Why You Should Be More Worried (Forbes)

Infectious Delta Variant Is Now The Dominant Covid Strain In U.S., CDC Says (Forbes)

Here Are The Biggest Groups That Are Still Refusing The Covid-19 Vaccine, Poll Finds (Forbes)

CDC Won’t Change Mask Guidelines As Delta Variant Spreads, Director Says (Forbes)

Pfizer Shot Much Less Effective Against Delta, Israel Study Shows — Here’s What You Need To Know About Variants And Vaccines (Forbes)

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