Delta Variant Surges as US COVID-19 Vaccination Rates Slow
By Cana Yao
As the Delta variant spreads and the vaccination campaign sputters, COVID-19 cases are once again on the rise.
Although 336 million doses have been given in the US, nearly half of all Americans are vaccinated, cases and hospitalizations are relatively low when compared to their January peak, and deaths are lower than they have been in over a year, infections are rising in every state. In 49 US states, case numbers have increased at least 15 percent over the last two weeks, with 19 states seeing at least twice as many new cases every day. Outbreaks have also emerged in several areas with particularly low vaccination rates.
“The Delta variant is gaining ground,” Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson warned residents, referring to his state’s sudden spike in cases, which shot from less than two hundred daily to over 1,000 over the course of a month. He also cited Arkansas’ low vaccination rate--only 35% of the state is vaccinated. “It’s an urgent moment because the solution is available. People are always asking me, ‘How do you protect yourself?’ Get the vaccination.”
From what we know so far, the tens of millions of Americans who are vaccinated are protected from the Delta variant. In much of the US, COVID-19 cases are staying relatively low; Vermont, the state with the highest vaccination rate, has a seven-day average of 13 cases per day. However, within a month after cases nationally bottomed out at 11,000 a day, virus cases have more than doubled and are continuing to climb.
Missouri is experiencing a shortage of intensive care beds, only 33.6% of Mississippians are fully vaccinated and cases are up 70 percent in the last two weeks, and in Louisiana, which has one of the lowest vaccination rates in the US, the average daily caseload has skyrocketed--doubling since the beginning of July. These discouraging trends come as national vaccine campaigns, which have largely become entangled in politics, have sputtered and stalled. During an April peak, over 3 million people were receiving vaccines daily. Now, only about 550,000 people are getting vaccinated every day in the US. “The data are very clear,” said Dr. Joseph Kanter, Louisiana’s state health officer. “All people in Louisiana, especially those who are not yet vaccinated, should know they are now at increased risk of exposure to Covid-19 due to the more transmissible Delta variant, and they should consider their personal risk and their family’s risk.”
Governors and public health officials everywhere are urging citizens to get vaccinated, regardless of whether their states have seen significant increases in cases. “I hope and pray that it doesn’t come to West Virginia and just absolutely runs across our state like wild,” said Governor Jim Justice, whose state has a low vaccination rate of 38.8%. “But the odds are it will.”