The trajectory of the COVID-19 pandemic is continuing in the right direction for much of the United States. Newly reported cases have continued to drop as vaccinations increase, with a dozen states having administered at least one dose to more than 70 percent of their population, according to The New York Times. But some areas are still struggling to keep the novel coronavirus under control, including one state in particular, which is currently home to the two worst COVID outbreaks in the nation. Read on to see which place is seeing late spikes in cases.
Missouri is home to the two worst COVID outbreaks in the U.S. right now.
According to data from The Times, Missouri is home to two of the worst COVID outbreaks anywhere in the U.S. right now. As of June 5, Linn and Livingston counties, which are rural areas in the northern part of the state, posted the highest number of new COVID-19 cases per 100,000 residents of anywhere else in the nation, ABC News reports.
"We did not expect this at all," Sherry Weldon, administrator of the Livingston County Health Department, told ABC News. "We all thought we were going to be able to go on vacation sometime this year."
Officials say case counts are likely even higher than reported.
The most recent data from The Times shows that each of the neighboring counties has a disproportionately high COVID-19 case count for their populations. As of June 7, Linn County reported a 14-day average of 59 per 100,000 residents, while Livingston County posted an average of 68 per capita.
"It's kind of sobering," Kendal Geno, MD, medical director of Linn County, told ABC News, adding that the actual case count was likely higher than reported.
Low vaccination rates and lack of mitigation efforts likely caused the surges, officials say.
Both Weldon and Geno called out especially low vaccination rates in their respective counties for the sudden surges. According to data from the Missouri Department of Health, as of June 7, Linn and Livingston Counties had 29.4 and 29.8 percent of their population fully vaccinated, respectively. Both numbers fall below the state average of 35 percent and the national average of 41.9 percent.
"Our vaccination rates aren't terrible in the elderly population, but they're abysmal in the under-50 age group," Geno told ABC News, explaining that the younger population was now experiencing the bulk of new COVID cases. He also bemoaned the fact that Linn County never instituted a mask mandate, saying: "In rural Missouri, it has been difficult the entire pandemic, honestly, to get people to take things seriously in many ways."
Local health officials say new variants are now spreading within the state.
Fortunately, while the outbreaks have led to an increase in hospitalizations, they have not yet led to any recently reported deaths in either county. But after the Missouri State Health Department recently announced that highly contagious variants—including B.1.1.7 first discovered in the U.K. and B.1.617 first seen in India—were likely currently circulating in the area, health officials expressed even greater concern.
"We're hoping we're not the beginning of Missouri's big outbreak for the India variant," Weldon told ABC News. "That's my hope, that we shut it down before it gets too crazy."