These States Are Seeing COVID Cases Surge Again

Overall, national COVID numbers are finally beginning to show some sustained signs of receding after a summer-long resurgence of the virus. The change brings some relief to many hard-hit places that bore the brunt of the spike in infections, especially in the South. But despite having high vaccination rates, cases are still climbing and hospitals have been pushed to the brink in some states as the highly contagious Delta variant continues to spread. Read on to see which region is now dealing with rising numbers once again.

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States in New England are seeing COVID cases surge again due to the Delta variant.

The beginning of fall appears to have shifted the pandemic's worst effects further north. Cases in states across New England have begun to surge, driving some to the highest levels they've ever seen and putting a strain on healthcare resources in many areas, the Associated Press reports. Officials say the high transmissibility of the Delta variant is behind the rise in infections, which is mainly affecting the portions of the population that have yet to be vaccinated.

"I think it's clearly frustrating for all of us," Michael Pieciak, the commissioner of the Vermont Department of Financial Regulation who monitors COVID-19 statistics for the state, told the AP. "We want kids to be safe in school, we want parents not to have to worry about their child's education and health."

Experts say higher vaccination rates may be necessary to stop the spread of the virus.

The recent surge comes even though most New England states boast the highest vaccination rates anywhere in the U.S. According to data from the AP, Vermont leads the nation with 69.4 percent of its population fully vaccinated, followed by Connecticut, Maine, Rhode Island, and Massachusetts. With 61.5 percent of residents having received all necessary doses, New Hampshire ranks tenth overall, putting all six states in the region well above the national average of 55.5 percent.

As a result, some local officials have said this may be evidence that the original goal of vaccinating 70 percent of the population may no longer be high enough to stop the spread of COVID-19. "What we've learned with delta and looking beyond Delta is because that's where our focus is as well, to really reach those levels of vaccination, to give you that true population-level protection, you need to be in excess of 90 percent," Tom McCarthy, the executive director of the Rhode Island Department of Health COVID Response Unit, told the Associated Press.

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Unvaccinated patients make up the majority of new infections in the surge.

Similar to other areas affected by surges of the Delta variant, the recent wave of cases is falling most heavily upon certain parts of the population. Those who are unvaccinated make up the vast majority of those developing severe cases: According to MaineHealth, which operates a network of 10 hospitals across the state, more than 70 percent of all patients hospitalized with COVID and 87 percent of those admitted to the ICU have not received their shots.

"This is clearly a surge of the unvaccinated," Joan Boomsma, MD, chief medical officer for MaineHealth, told The Boston Globe. "We are seeing higher demand for ICU beds than at any other time in the pandemic."

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Experts believe the surge can be stopped or slowed by taking action now.

Even as concerns over the spike in cases in New England have grown, some health officials have expressed optimism that the virus can eventually be stopped. When asked about preventing an outbreak during an appearance on CNN on Sept. 27, Anthony Fauci, MD, chief White House COVID adviser, explained that the tools needed to keep another spike from happening already exist in the arsenal.

"There are a lot of things that we can do to make a surge in the Northeast or any other place much less likely if we implement the things we need to get implemented," he explained. "You do it by vaccination, number one, and you do it by mitigation methods, such as wearing masks in indoor places and congregate settings," he advised, adding that masking in schools and getting enough adults vaccinated to help protect children from infection was also important.

He also pointed out that children becoming eligible to receive their shots could significantly keep the virus at bay. "If we get the approval to vaccinate elementary school children, that will be very helpful. As will getting many of the adolescents who are already approved to be vaccinated, that would be helpful," Fauci said.

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