By SOPHIA TAREEN and JENNIFER McDERMOTT, Associated Press
PROVIDENCE, RI (AP) – The number of Americans fully vaccinated against COVID-19 reached 200 million on Wednesday amid a discouraging spike in cases and hospitalizations during the holiday season that has hit even New England, one of the most inoculated corners of the country.
In the United States, new cases have risen from an average of nearly 95,000 a day on November 22 to nearly 119,000 a day this week, and hospitalizations are up 25% from a month ago . The increases are due almost entirely to the delta variant, although the omicron mutation has been detected in about 20 states and will likely spread even further.
Deaths stand at nearly 1,600 a day on average, until they were in October. And the total death toll in the United States less than two years after the onset of the crisis could reach another heartbreaking milestone, 800,000, within days.
The situation is not as dire as last year’s vacation wave, before the public had access to COVID-19 vaccines, but the 60% of the U.S. population who are fully vaccinated were not enough to prevent hot spots.
Cold weather, Thanksgiving gatherings and a big rebound in vacation travel are thought to be playing a role, as well as public weariness with pandemic restrictions.
Lawrence Gostin, director of the WHO Collaborating Center on Public Health Law and Human Rights at Georgetown University, compared the virus to a forest fire.
âYou can clear a forest of shrubs. But if you leave shrubs and trees standing, the fire will find them, âGostin said. âThe virus will find you. It looks for hosts that are not immune. The fact that you live in New England or New York does not isolate you.
Demand for the vaccine – with the recent approval of boosters for all adults and injections for elementary school children – has been high amid the wave and the emergence of the omicron variant, the dangers of which are no longer evident. still not fully understood. On Wednesday, Pfizer said the first two injections of its vaccine appeared to be significantly less effective against omicron, but a booster dose could offer significant protection.
Nearly 48 million people have received a recall, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. White House officials noted that the United States administered 12.5 million shots last week, the highest weekly total since May.
“And this is critical progress as we head into winter and take on the new omicron variant,” said Jeffrey Zients, White House adviser on coronaviruses.
At the same time, some states, notably in highly vaccinated New England but also in the Midwest, are struggling with some of the worst outbreaks since the start of the pandemic. Hospitals are filling up and responding by canceling elective surgeries or taking other crisis measures, while states are strongly promoting recalls.
Despite one of the highest vaccination levels in the country – more than 74% of the population fully vaccinated – Vermont is facing its biggest increase to date. Over the past week, new cases per day have increased by 54% and the number of people hospitalized with COVID-19 has increased by 18%.
The virus attacks those who have not been vaccinated: As of Tuesday, 90% of COVID-19 patients in intensive care were not vaccinated.
“Obviously, this is not where we want to be,” Governor Phil Scott said on Tuesday, calling the situation “extremely frustrating”.
More than 400 people were hospitalized with COVID-19 in New Hampshire earlier this week, breaking the record set last winter.
New Hampshire Governor Chris Sununu has ordered hospitals to set up COVID-19 “emergency centers” using the space normally reserved for things such as outpatient care.
âEvery day over the next few weeks we will likely see a new record of hospitalizations for COVID in New Hampshire,â said Steve Ahnen, president of the New Hampshire Hospital Association. “With over 1,000 new cases per day, that number will do nothing but will continue to increase.”
Maine is also struggling with record hospitalizations for COVID-19. Governor Janet Mills on Wednesday activated up to 75 National Guard members to help.
âThe vast majority of patients in our hospitals are not vaccinated. This is especially true for intensive care patients, âsaid Andy Mueller, CEO of MainHealth, the state’s largest healthcare network. âIt takes a huge amount of our resources to provide care. “
Rhode Island’s largest hospital system, Lifespan, said staff shortages were at crisis levels never seen before, while Kent Hospital said it was near full capacity and was considering delaying cases. non-urgent procedures.
Kent’s interim president and COO Dr Paari Gopalakrishnan said the spike was likely due to “people let their guard down” during the holidays, and the flu season could complicate it further. things.
New Hampshire plans to host a “booster blitz” on Saturday at 15 locations. Most of the appointments were made.
In Berlin, Vermont, Mike Labounty received his recall on Tuesday.
âI have friends in their twenties who get sick and friends who are in their 60s who get sick,â he said. “I’m very sick” so I’m just trying to avoid that. “
Elsewhere in the country, Indiana has seen COVID-19 hospital admissions double over the past month and are approaching levels not seen since that time a year ago, before vaccines became widely available.
The number of people in intensive care in Minnesota reached the highest level to date during the pandemic, with 98% of intensive care beds occupied. Teams of military medics have been dispatched to Michigan and New Mexico.
Associated Press editors Kathy McCormack in Concord, New Hampshire; Patrick Whittle in Portland, Maine; and Wilson Ring and Lisa Rathke in Montpellier, Vermont, contributed to this report. Tareen reported from Chicago.
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