Just as we put the unofficial end of summer behind us, it appears that the season-long rise of COVID-19 cases has begun to slow on a national level as well. Unfortunately, the U.S. still surpassed a grim milestone on Sept. 7, hitting its 40 millionth recorded case since the beginning of the pandemic—including 4 million tallied in the last four weeks alone, CNN reports. But despite national numbers finally seeing a slight decrease, certain states continue to see surges in COVID cases as some experts warn there may be more spikes to come.
Even though the summer’s reported national daily averages have remained well below the heights seen during the pandemic’s winter peak, hospitalizations from COVID-19 have reached dizzying new levels compared to last year’s Labor Day holiday. According to The Washington Post, the number of patients has skyrocketed from 38,192 on Sept. 7, 2020, to 99,270 on Sept 6. 2021. The jump represents a staggering 160 percent increase, even though highly effective vaccines became available months ago.
“Here’s the important thing: Everyone that I’m hospitalizing is not vaccinated. We are, by and large across the country, not needing to hospitalize people that have gotten both doses of the vaccine,” Megan Ranney, MD, professor of emergency medicine and associate dean at Brown University’s school of public health, told CNN. “This is a disease of the unvaccinated right now.”
Ranney emphasized that such numbers were enough to suggest that the pandemic was still far from over. “The takeaway for everyone is get your shots and certainly wear a mask for that added layer of protection if you’re in public indoor spaces right now,” she advised.
Read on to see which states have experienced COVID surges of 30 percent or more over the past week as of Sept. 7, according to data from The Washington Post.
- New cases in the last seven days: 34 cases per 100,000 people
- Percent increase in the last seven days: 31 percent
Health officials in Colorado may have seen their numbers rise by nearly a third in the past week, but they’re still bracing for another wave of cases brought on by travel and get-togethers over the holiday weekend. “This has really become the vaccinated and the unvaccinated,” Richard Zane, MD, UCHealth Chief Innovation Officer and Chair of the Department of Emergency Medicine at University of Colorado Anschutz School of Medicine, told local Denver affiliate CBS4, adding that your shots can be the determining factor in how seriously ill you become with COVID-19.
“Look, the single most important thing you can do is get vaccinated. The second, third, and fourth most important thing you can do is get vaccinated,” he emphasized. “The other things still work: Washing your hands, physical distancing, and wearing a mask, but getting vaccinated is by far the single most important thing you can do for yourself, for your family, [and] for society.”
- New cases in the last seven days: 51 cases per 100,000 people
- Percent increase in the last seven days: 32 percent
COVID cases in North Dakota overall may have been on the rise since July 5, but local data shows that lower vaccination rates in certain counties are creating a concentration of hot spots. “We clearly have more vaccine hesitancy in the western part of the state,” Doug Griffin, MD, Sanford vice president and medical officer in Fargo, told the Associated Press. “I think there’s a much more frontier, independent nature and philosophy out there.”
Another expert warned that the rural layout of the area might be responsible for lulling the local population into a false sense of security. “I think there’s a sense that because the population is less, people are more dispersed, and they hear about less cases and think they’re less likely to get [infected],” Cary Ward, MD, chief medical officer for CHI Health’s Midwest district, which includes the largest hospital system in western North Dakota, told the AP. “You know, the same thing happened with the Spanish flu. It started in the big cities and people warned, ‘Don’t think that you’re immune to this by being in small towns.'”
- New cases in the last seven days: 52 cases per 100,000 people
- Percent increase in the last seven days: 35 percent
Cases in the Buckeye State are still rising, but some local doctors are concerned that the worst may be yet to come. “The lagging indicator is hospitalizations, and those are still going up,” Joseph Gastaldo, MD, an infectious disease specialist with OhioHealth Physician Group in Columbus, told local ABC affiliate WSYX. “But, then hospitalizations will lag behind that, and we will probably be tight here in the hospital, perhaps until mid-October.”
Gastaldo also warned that the return of other seasonal diseases could also put added strain on an already overloaded health system. “Influenza, other respiratory viruses, and SARS coronavirus, the virus that causes COVID-19, are much more transmissible in the winter months,” he said.
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- New cases in the last seven days: 29 cases per 100,000 people
- Percent increase in the last seven days: 56 percent
Maine currently boasts one of the highest rates of fully vaccinated residents in the U.S., with 71.82 percent of the eligible population having received all necessary doses as of Sept. 4. But according to local health data, the unvaccinated population is bearing the brunt of the state’s surge, accounting for roughly 95 percent of the 42,386 new infections and 90 percent of the 960 hospitalizations recorded since vaccines became available to the general public, The Portland Press Herald reports.
Local healthcare workers have pointed out that the remaining lag in vaccinations continues to strain hospitals in the state. “People that have the vaccine and then get COVID—they don’t get ICU sick,” Shannon Calvert, a nurse at the Maine Medical Center in Portland, told local NBC affiliate WCSH. “They’re not up on a ventilator.”