Covid-19 vaccinations have brought an overdue slice of normal to millions of Americans: People are able to visit family members for the first time in over a year and club venues and bars are back in action. But much of that is now in jeopardy as the highly contagious delta variant continues to take hold across the country.
Thanks to an increase in covid-19 related hospitalizations, Los Angeles County health officials have decided to reinstate indoor mask mandates, just one month after ending them. Starting Saturday, Angelinos must wear masks in indoor public spaces, regardless of vaccination status. Counties in California’s Bay Area, meanwhile, aren’t quite ready to bring back mask mandates, but officials are strongly recommending that everyone wear masks inside stores again.
The last week has been a gut punch to the efforts of public health officials who have spent the last several months pushing vaccinations. After a period of decline, covid-19 cases have doubled nationwide in the last three weeks, thanks to the delta variant as well a reduction in vaccination rates and the popularity of July 4 gatherings. While this isn’t anywhere near the level of carnage that occurred during the virus’s peak in January—there are fewer than 260 covid-19 deaths daily at the moment, compared to 3,400 per day during the winter—this surge is troubling.
On Friday, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Director Rochelle Walensky said that covid-19 is becoming “a pandemic of the unvaccinated” noting that, “We are seeing outbreaks of cases in parts of the country that have low vaccination coverage, because unvaccinated people are at risk.”
Most impacted: Areas in which vaccination rates are lowest. According to the Associated Press, “The five states with the biggest two-week jump in cases per capita all had lower vaccination rates: Missouri, 45.9%; Arkansas, 43%; Nevada, 50.9%; Louisiana, 39.2%; and Utah, 49.5%.” And NPR reports that Missouri is seeing covid-19 numbers that haven’t been seen since winter.
In Missouri, the seven-day average of new cases is near 1,400 new positive cases each day, up more than 150% from a month ago. In Arkansas, that number is up 287%.
Caseload and hospitalization rates in the Ozarks region have reached levels not seen since the winter, officials said. In several counties across Missouri and Arkansas, caseloads have now reached or surpassed their winter peaks.
According to the most recent data available from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the delta variant accounts for more than 73% of new cases in Missouri, by far the highest percentage of any state.
While anecdotal instances of fully vaccinated people contracting covid-19 seem to have increased in the last month, the chances remain low.
“The good news is if you are fully vaccinated you are protected against severe COVID, hospitalization, and death, and are even protected against the known variants, including the delta variant,” Walensky said.
So how concerned should we be? At this point, it appears to depend on vaccination status and location. Regardless, this should act as a reality check to Americans nationwide: Whether you live in a state with a 60 percent vaccination rate or a 40 percent vaccination rate, it’s time to make sure you don’t spend the summer hooked up to a ventilator. Don’t be this guy: