PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) — The number of Americans fully vaccinated against COVID-19 reached 200 million Wednesday amid a dispiriting holiday-season spike in cases and hospitalizations that has hit even New England, one of the most highly inoculated corners of the country.
The average number of new cases per day in the U.S. rose from nearly 95,000 per day Nov. 22, to close to 119,000 this week. Hospitalizations have increased 25% from one month ago. These increases can be attributed almost exclusively to the delta variantAlthough the omicron mutationIt has been found in approximately 20 states, and it is expected to continue spreading.
On average death rates are close to 1,600 per day. This is up from October. The death toll from the US crisis, which has been in effect for less than two years, could rise further to 800,000 within days.
It isn’t as bad as it seems. last year’s holiday-season surgeIt was before COVID-19 that the vaccines were made available to the general public. However, the 60 percent of American adults who are fully vaccinated have not prevented hot spots.
Cold weather, Thanksgiving celebrations and other festive events big reboundHoliday travel is a popular choice.
Lawrence Gostin (director of Georgetown University’s WHO Collaborating Center on Public Health Law and Human Rights), compared the virus with 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’s looking for host that isn’t immune. The fact that you live in New England or New York doesn’t insulate you.”
Demand for the vaccine — with recent approval of boosters for all adults and shots for elementary school children — has been high amid the surge and the emergence of the omicron variant, whose dangers are still not fully understood. Pfizer announced Wednesday that although the first two doses of vaccine against omicron appear to be significantly less effective, a booster may still offer some protection.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly 48 million people received boosters. Officials at the White House noted that the United States administered 12.5 Million shots last week. This is the largest weekly number 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.
However, states in New England are experiencing the highest levels of pandemic-related deaths, especially in New England. The hospitals are filling up quickly and responding by cancelling urgent surgeries or other emergency measures. Meanwhile, boosters are being strongly promoted in the states.
Despite one of the highest vaccination levels in the country — over 74% of the population fully vaccinated — Vermont is coping with its biggest surge yet. New cases have increased by 54% per day in the past week. The hospital’s COVID-19 population has increased by 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 with COVID-19 in New Hampshire were present at the beginning of the week. They broke last winter’s record.
New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu directed hospitals to set up COVID-19 “surge centers” using space normally reserved for such things as outpatient care.
“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 also has record-breaking COVID-19 hospitalizations. Gov. Janet Mills activated 75 National Guard members to assist her Wednesday
“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 probably due to “people letting their guards down” during the holidays, and flu season could complicate things further.
New Hampshire plans to hold a “booster blitz” on Saturday at 15 locations. All appointments were confirmed.
Mike Labounty, a Berliner, Vermont resident, received his booster Tuesday.
“I have friends that are in their 20s that are getting sick and friends that are 60 that are getting sick,” he said. “The thing you see on Facebook and stuff like that is, ‘I just want this to be over. I’m very sick,’ so I’m just trying to avoid that.”
Indiana is another state where COVID-19 hospital admissions have increased by double over the last month. This compares to levels that were seen in this period a full year ago before vaccines became widely accessible.
Minnesota’s ICU has been crowded to 98%, making it the most populated ICU in the history of the pandemic. New Mexico and Michigan have received teams of military medics.
This report was contributed by Patrick Whittle, Patrick Whittle, and Wilson Ring, all Associated Press journalists. Tareen was reporting from Chicago.