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New US outbreaks of delta variant show dangerous vaccine divide

Adam Barnes | 7/15/2021 | The Hill

A wave of coronavirus cases brought on by the highly transmissible delta variant has spotlighted vaccination gaps in several southern and midwestern states. 

The gap between the national vaccination averages and a cluster of states is widening as vaccination campaigns slow and local governments loosen restrictions. Around ">48 percent of the total U.S. population has been fully vaccinated, but data shows a group of states, including Arkansas, Louisiana and Mississippi, are lagging behind national numbers and seeing an uptick in cases. 

David Dowdy, an associate professor of epidemiology at Johns Hopkins University, notes the U.S. is nowhere near where it was in April 2020. But he told The Guardianthat the U.S. has “seen [that] those counts can go up substantially and quickly” and should proceed with caution. 

Dowdy added that the smattering of states reporting a surge in cases could be the result of numerous issues, including age and availability, causing vaccination gaps apart from politics. 

“The people who have not gotten vaccinated so far are a very diverse group,” said Dowdy. “It’s easy to portray it as … a political stripe, but vaccination rates are higher, for example, in those who are older, and that’s irrespective of political leaning.”

Five southern and western states — Alabama, Mississippi, Arkansas, Wyoming and Louisiana — have fully vaccinated fewer than 36 percent of their residents. Alabama, according to CDC data, has fully vaccinated the lowest percentage of its population. Meanwhile, Arkansas and Louisiana are among the five states with the biggest increase in cases over last three weeks, according to The Associated Press. 

New coronavirus cases in the U.S. have nearly doubled in a three-week span beginning in June — and they continue to grow. An analysis of data from Johns Hopkins University shows new reported cases rose from 11,300 cases on June 23 to 23,600 on Monday. The U.S. reported more than 31,000 new cases on Thursday.

James Lawler of the Global Center for Health Security at the University of Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha told the AP that relaxed restrictions and vaccine hesitancy could bring to the U.S. devastating conditions similar to what is being reported across the globe. 

“The descriptions from regions of the world where the delta variant has taken hold and become the predominant virus are pictures of ICUs full of 30-year-olds. That’s what the critical care doctors describe and that’s what’s coming to the U.S.,” Lawler said. “I think people have no clue what’s about to hit us.”

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Categories: National News