Over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic, it hasn’t been uncommon for certain areas of the U.S. to see localized outbreaks of the virus. This has been especially true since the Delta variant became the dominant strain and led to a summer-long surge of infections that disproportionately affected the Southern states and places with low vaccination rates. But as numbers in many of these areas begin to show signs they’ve peaked, Ashish Jha, MD, dean of Brown’s School of Public Health, warned that the Delta surge is “still rising” in other states. Read on to see which places are still seeing their numbers head in the wrong direction.
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States in the Midwest, Great Plains, and Northeast are still seeing cases surge from the Delta variant.
During a Sept. 5 appearance on Fox News Sunday, Jha offered an assessment of the state of the pandemic, predicting that case numbers in Southern states that had been hit particularly hard over the summer were “starting to turn down,” especially Florida, Louisiana, and Arkansas. However, he quickly pointed out that other areas were still seeing their cases go up.
“Infection numbers are still rising in the Midwest and Great Plains and the Northeast, but at much slower rates, particularly in states that have high vaccination numbers,” he told host Chris Wallace. Later in the interview, when asked what the rest of the Delta surge may look like, he explained that get-togethers and travel over Labor Day weekend might send cases up even further. “We might see a bump in the next week, 10 days. We have after every major holiday over the last year and a half, so I would not be surprised,” he predicted.
Other experts have warned the Northeast is potentially looking at an upcoming surge.
Jha isn’t alone in his forecast that certain areas might not yet be clear of the Delta variant’s spread. On Sept. 3, former Food and Drug Administration (FDA) commissioner Scott Gottlieb, MD, told CNBC’s Squawk Box that the next major surges would be in a new locale, despite having a high vaccination rate. “I think there’s sort of a perception that we’re sort of through this Delta wave here in the Northeast because we’ve seen Delta cases go up and go down in places like the New York metropolitan region. We’re also seeing [test] positives come down,” he said.
But Gottlieb predicted that the area wasn’t quite through the worst of the recent spike quite yet. “I don’t think that that was the true Delta wave. I think that that was a Delta warning,” he said, adding that the real surge in the Northeastern states “is going to start to build after Labor Day.”
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Some states are already seeing their numbers spike tremendously.
While the predictions come as cases are slowly plateauing on a national level, certain states are seeing their numbers continue to creep upwards. Across the Midwest and Great Plains, Wisconsin and Michigan have each seen a six percent rise in average daily new cases per 100,000 people over the past seven days, while Colorado and North Dakota saw spikes of 31 percent and 32 percent, respectively, according to The Washington Post as of Sept. 7. Meanwhile, among states in the highly-vaccinated Northeast, Vermont reported a 17 percent jump in their average over the course of the same week, while Maine led the nation with a 56 percent spike.
Some experts have also expressed concern that the return of fall and winter could bring a series of new surges with it. “What worries me the most is not where we’re at, although that’s bad enough, but where we’re headed,” Andrew Noymer, an associate professor of public health at the University of California, Irvine, told The New York Times. “I think the U.S. is still in for a doozy of a next six months. We haven’t seen the effects yet of school reopening.”
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The end of the pandemic might look different than originally hoped.
As time passes, some officials have spoken about the demoralizing whiplash effect the sudden rise in cases had on the nation’s psyche and the expectations around what the end of the pandemic might actually look like. “People ask us sometimes, ‘What’s the end goal here? You’re not going to conquer COVID, and it’s not going to go away forever,'” Elizabeth Groenweghe, chief epidemiologist for the public health department in Kansas City, Kansas, told The Times. “And I think that really it’s to get to a point where the level of community transmission is at least sustainable and not impacting our daily lives so negatively.”
However, one official from the Midwest offered a somewhat optimistic prediction for when life might finally start to get back to normal for good. “I’m hoping March of next year that we’re having a very different conversation, that we’ve gotten through it,” Cory Mason, the mayor of Racine, Wisconsin, told The Times. “I think that’s the one thing that everybody agrees on: Can we just get back to a place where COVID isn’t dominating so much of our time and our lives?”
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