Vaccinations are starting to rise in some states where COVID-19 cases are on the rise, White House officials said Thursday, and hospitals are running out of space due to a delta variant, which is “spreading with incredible efficiency.”
Coronavirus coordinator Jeff Zients told reporters that several states with the highest rates of new infections saw residents being vaccinated at a higher rate than the entire state. Officials cited Arkansas, Florida, Louisiana, Missouri and Nevada as examples.
“The fourth wave is real, and the numbers are pretty scary right now,” Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards said on a radio show in New Orleans. Edwards, a Democrat, added, “There’s no doubt we’re going in the wrong direction, and we’re going there in a hurry.”
Louisiana reported 2,843 new cases of COVID-19 on Thursday, a day after reporting 5,388 – the third highest level since the pandemic began. In the last month, hospitalizations have risen sharply, from 242 on June 19 to 913 in the latest report. Fifteen new deaths were reported on Thursday.
Only 36% of the Louisiana population is fully vaccinated, according to data from the state health department. According to national data, 56.3% of Americans received at least one dose of the vaccine, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Aly Neel, a spokeswoman for the Louisiana health department, said the state had recently seen a “small bump” in the vaccination, adding that details would be available on Friday. Warner Thomas, president and CEO of Ochsner Health, said the system has seen an increase of 10% to 15% of people seeking vaccination over the past week or two.
In Missouri, which is second in Arkansas and Louisiana in the number of new cases per capita in the past 14 days, officials have launched a vaccine incentive program that includes prizes of $ 10,000 for 900 lottery winners. The state lags about 10 percentage points behind the national average for people who have received at least one blow.
Hospitals in the Springfield area are under stress, reaching a high and almost pandemic number of patients.
“Younger, relatively healthy and unvaccinated. If this describes you, please consider vaccination, ”tweeted Erik Frederick, chief administrative officer of Mercy Springfield Hospital, noting that half of the patients with COVID-19 were aged 21 to 59, and only 2% of that group were vaccinated.
The sudden wave, which began in the southwestern part of the state, where some counties have vaccination rates in their teens, began to spread to the Kansas City area, including the Research Medical Center.
“I don’t want to continue to risk my life just because people don’t want to get vaccinated or listen to what health professionals recommend,” complained Pascaline Muhindura, a registered nurse who worked at COVID Hospital. 19 units over a year.
“Many of them don’t even believe in COVID-19 to begin with. It’s incredibly frustrating. You are helping someone who does not even believe that the disease they have is real, ”said Muhindura.
Dr. Jason Wilson, an emergency physician at Tampa General Hospital, also watched the increase in cases with frustration. Unlike earlier in the pandemic, when many patients were in their 70s, he saw the average age of patients fall to their mid-40s.
“I spent a lot of time this fall and last summer saying,‘ We have to do those things, those social mitigation strategies until we get that vaccine. Just stay there, ”Wilson said.
Hospitals initially had hope as cases progressed. But then he said, “Things just fell apart.”
In conservative Utah, hospitals are also recharging as the virus grows among the unvaccinated. On Wednesday, the state recorded the highest number of hospitalizations for COVID-19 in five months.
State health officials have renewed their requests for residents to be vaccinated as Utah intensive care units have reached 81.5% of capacity. There are 295 people hospitalized for the virus in the state, the highest since February.
“This delta is currently training mostly unvaccinated people,” said Dr. William Schaffner, a professor of infectious diseases in the Department of Health Policy at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine in Nashville.
The version, which originated in India, now makes up about 83% of coronavirus samples genetically identified in the United States. It is the predominant strain in all regions of the country and continues to “spread with incredible efficiency,” CDC Director Rochelle Walensky told reporters at the White House.
She said the mutation was more aggressive and much more transmissible, calling it “one of the most contagious respiratory viruses we know of.”
“We are still at a crucial moment in this pandemic,” she warned. “We must come together as one people.”
The CDC has not changed the guidelines that vaccinated people should not wear masks. But in Georgia, public schools in Atlanta announced Thursday that they will implement a policy of “universal wearing of masks” in all school buildings of the system when fall classes begin.
Only 18% of qualified students in the Atlanta school system were fully vaccinated, and 58% of its employees said they were either fully vaccinated or planned to be, officials said.
“Given our low vaccination rates and growing community expansion, the CDC recognizes that universal camouflage would be appropriate,” the school system said in a statement.
Associated Press author Kevin McGill of New Orleans contributed to the report.
Heather Hollingsworth and Richardo Alonso-zaldivar, Associated Press