Daily COVID Cases Spike To 119,000 As 200M Americans Are Fully Vaccinated
The number of Americans fully vaccinated against COVID-19 reached 200 million Wednesday amid a holiday-season spike in cases and hospitalizations that has hit places like New England which has one of the highest vaccination rates in the country.
New cases in the U.S. have risen to almost 119,000 a day this week, that’s up from 95,000 on Nov. 22, with hospitalizations up by 25% from a month ago. The delta variant is definitely responsible for the spike though the omicron mutation has been detected in about 20 states.
Deaths are up to 1,600 a day on average, that’s back up to where they were in October. And the overall U.S. death toll less than two years into the crisis could hit another 800,000, in just a matter of days.
The situation is not as dire as it was last year before the public had access to COVID-19 vaccines, however, the 60% of the U.S. population that is fully vaccinated has not been enough to prevent hot spots.
The cold weather, holiday gatherings, and a return to holiday travel are all thought to be playing a role, along with public fatigue with pandemic restrictions.
Lawrence Gostin, director of the WHO Collaborating Center on Public Health Law and Human Rights at Georgetown University, compared the virus to a wildfire.
“You can clear a forest of the shrubbery. But if you leave some shrubs and trees standing, the fire will find them,” Gostin said. “The virus will find you. It is searching for hosts that are not immune. The fact that you live in New England or New York doesn’t insulate you.”
The recent approval of boosters for all adults and shots for elementary school children has caused the demand for vaccines to be high amid the surge and the emergence of the omicron variant. On Wednesday, Pfizer said that the initial two shots of its vaccine appear significantly less effective against omicron but that a booster dose may offer important protection.
Nearly 48 million people have received a booster, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. White House officials announced that the U.S. administered 12.5 million shots last week, the highest weekly total since May.
“And that’s critical progress as we head into the winter and confront the new omicron variant,” White House coronavirus adviser Jeffrey Zients said.
Even so, some highly vaccinated places such as New England, and in the Midwest, are struggling with some of the worst surges since the beginning of the pandemic. Hospitals are filling up and forced to cancel non-urgent surgeries as well as taking other crisis measures, while states are strongly promoting boosters.
Vermont has one of the highest vaccination levels in the country with over 74% of the population fully vaccinated —and yet the state is grappling with its biggest surge thus far. In the last week, new cases per day are up 54%, and the number of people in the hospital with COVID-19 has climbed 18%.
The virus is preying on those who haven’t gotten their shots: As of Tuesday, 90% of the COVID-19 patients in intensive care were unvaccinated.
“Obviously, it’s not where we want to be,” Gov. Phil Scott said Tuesday, calling the situation “extremely frustrating.”
Over 400 people were hospitalized with COVID-19 in New Hampshire at the start of the week, breaking the record set last winter.
“Every day for the next several weeks, we’re likely to see a new high in COVID hospitalizations in New Hampshire,” said Steve Ahnen, president of the New Hampshire Hospital Association. “With over 1,000 new cases a day, that number’s not going to do anything but continue to go up.”
Maine is also fighting record-breaking COVID-19 hospitalizations. Gov. Janet Mills on Wednesday activated as many as 75 members of the National Guard to help out.
“The vast majority of patients in our hospitals are unvaccinated. That’s especially true of critical care patients,” said Andy Mueller, CEO of MaineHealth, the state’s biggest health network. “It requires a tremendous amount of our resources to provide care.”
Rhode Island’s largest hospital system, Lifespan, said staffing shortages are at never-before-seen crisis levels, while Kent Hospital said it is near capacity and is considering delaying non-urgent procedures.
Dr. Paari Gopalakrishnan, Kent’s interim president and chief operating officer, said the spike is likely due to “people letting their guards down” during the holidays, and flu season could complicate matters further.
In other places around the country, Indiana’s COVID-19 hospitalizations doubled in the last month and are approaching levels not seen since this time last year before vaccines were widely available.
The number of people in intensive care in Minnesota has reached the highest level yet during the pandemic, with 98% of ICU beds occupied. Teams of military medics have been sent into Michigan and New Mexico.