A week after the U.S. reported the first sustained drops in nationally reported COVID cases, numbers appear to be back on the rise once again. As the highly contagious Delta variant continues to take its toll, some particularly hard-hit states are reporting COVID surges that are some of the worst seen since the beginning of the pandemic.
According to data from The Washington Post, the week-long post-Labor Day holiday dip seen in national numbers has already been erased. The national daily reported case average has increased 16 percent in the last seven days to 164,475 as of Sept. 13, surpassing the previous summer surge high of 164,386 set on Sept. 1. And while certain states that have suffered exponentially worse at the hands of the Delta variant surge are finally showing signs of turning the corner, others are seeing sustained high numbers that are straining local healthcare systems.
"We continue to see more cases than is safe by any means," Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear said in a statement announcing the state's new record-breaking week for COVID-19 cases on Sept. 7. "The bad news is we had the worst week ever last week. Our hospitals continue to be pushed to the brink. If we have one bad week, we can very quickly run out of ICU beds."
While it was once one of the national leaders in the number of vaccines rolled out, West Virginia has recently reported a drastic increase in severe COVID-19 cases while seeing a major lag develop in new doses being administered. "We're very concerned about getting out of this particular part of the pandemic because our hospital systems and ICUs have been challenged in a more severe way than we have before," Clay Marsh, MD, COVID czar for West Virginia, told CNBC.
But one expert pointed out that this summer's surge has still managed to stay well below the levels seen during the worst days of the pandemic thanks to one important tool. "If we had not had the vaccine, you would have seen much greater cases and much greater mortality," Arturo Casadevall, MD, chair of molecular microbiology and immunology at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, told CNBC. "It's very clear that people who have the vaccine can get [COVID], but it's also clear that the likelihood that they get severe disease, or that they have to go to the hospital, or that they die, is much lower than if they had not been vaccinated. So the vaccine is quietly in the background saving tens of thousands of lives."
Read on to see which states have experienced COVID surges of 40 percent or more over the past week as of Sept. 14, according to data from The Washington Post.
New cases in the last seven days: 34 cases per 100,000 people
Percent increase in the last seven days: 40 percent
According to data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Massachusetts has the second-highest vaccination rate in the nation after Vermont. But while the state has seen a high number of doses administered overall, it's not spread evenly across all communities. This has some local experts concerned that the reopening of classrooms could lead to localized spikes where shots are lagging.
"It's a tale of two states, when we have so many cities whose rate is at 90 percent, but so many that are 50 percent," Alan Geller, a researcher and senior lecturer at Harvard University's T.H. Chan School of Public Health, told The Boston Globe.
New cases in the last seven days: 73 cases per 100,000 people
Percent increase in the last seven days: 41 percent
COVID cases in Montana have continued to rise along with the national average since the early summer. Now, as hospitals become overrun, some areas are calling in members of the National Guard to help with the heavy burden after spending the past season busy fighting wildfires across the state.
"I think many people in our community have no idea that we are surging again, that we have COVID again and that our staff are suffering, having to care for these very sick patients that honestly we can do little for other than hold their hand and provide supportive treatment and hope," Shelly Harkins, MD, the president and chief medical officer of St. Peter's Health in Helena, told the Independent Record on Sept. 5.
New cases in the last seven days: 35 cases per 100,000 people
Percent increase in the last seven days: 49 percent
Michigan has seen a staggering jump in cases over the summer, with the daily average skyrocketing from its low of 97 on July 8 to 3,421 as of Sept. 13, according to data from The New York Times. Many of the recent outbreaks appear to have coincided with students returning to classrooms, as 344 new outbreaks and 548 ongoing outbreaks have been reported at schools across the state, the Detroit Free Press reports.
New cases in the last seven days: 41 cases per 100,000 people
Percent increase in the last seven days: 50 percent
Along with many other states, Rhode Island has seen its daily case average rise over the course of the summer, hitting 438 and rising as of Sept. 13, according to data from The New York Times. Fortunately, state health officials also reported that hospitalizations have begun to decrease, lowering from 161 at the beginning of September to 108 on Sept. 13.
New cases in the last seven days: 66 cases per 100,000 people
Percent increase in the last seven days: 55 percent
According to recent state health data, the rolling seven-day average for positive COVID-19 tests reached 1,545 as of Sept. 13, which is the highest the figure has reached since Jan. 28. Now, with 935 of the 4,227 cases recorded over the weekend reported in school children in grades K-12, local officials are pushing to extend current mask mandates for students in some areas to hold back the surge.
"COVID continues to unnecessarily claim lives," Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall said during a press conference on Sept. 13, adding that the most recent surge appears to be "getting worse each day."
"Our kids need to be wearing masks in schools and out in public. We're not out of the woods, and we can't afford to be taking a step backward at a time like this," she said.
New cases in the last seven days: 113 cases per 100,000 people
Percent increase in the last seven days: 55 percent
Along with a surge in cases, state health data shows that hospitalizations from COVID in Alaska have risen more than 1,200 percent since late June to 210 as of Sept. 13, Anchorage Daily News reports. According to local health workers, this surge is also seeing a different type of patient flood the healthcare system.
"For the first time in my entire career, which spans about 20 years, I've had a whole ICU filled with patients who are younger than me," Javid Kamali, MD, an intensive care physician at Providence Alaska Medical Center in Anchorage, told Alaska Public Media. "That has never happened before."
New cases in the last seven days: 38 cases per 100,000 people
Percent increase in the last seven days: 65 percent
According to state health officials, the number of active COVID cases in New Hampshire rose to 3,437 on Sept. 13, the most since April 16. The Granite State also reported a rise in hospitalizations to 154, marking the highest level seen since Feb. 9.
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New cases in the last seven days: 175 cases per 100,000 people
Percent increase in the last seven days: 69 percent
The ongoing surge brought on by the Delta variant has made Tennessee the state with the most COVID infections in the past two weeks when adjusted for population, according to data from The Times. This includes 15,411 new cases reported on Sept. 10, the most recorded in a single day in the state during the pandemic.
"I'm afraid the fact that we're leading is a reflection of the fact that we haven't been vaccinated, we're having cases that are occurring in the state of Tennessee now at a frequency that rivals the frequency back last December when we had that huge surge," William Schaffner, MD, professor of Infectious Diseases at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, told local ABC affiliate WKRN. "We're lagging way behind in vaccinations, and as a consequence, our citizens are volunteering to become sick because that's who is being admitted to the hospital today, unvaccinated people, well over 90 percent across our state."