“I think we’ll see this big, big acceleration,” Dr. Peter Hotez, co-director of the Center for Vaccine Development at Texas Children’s Hospital, told CNN’s Anderson Cooper on Friday. “As bad as things are right now in the South, they are about to get worse for a lot of unvaccinated people. ”
Officials in southern states, where immunization rates typically lag behind other parts of the country, are working to get the message across. In Florida, Covid-19 cases have jumped 50% in the past week, according to state health data.
In Georgia, the case rate has more than tripled in the past 14 days, the state’s Public Health Department said on Friday, urging residents to get vaccinated because the Delta variant is more transmissible than the strains previous reports of Covid-19.
“Unfortunately, we can expect the number of Covids to continue to rise. People who are unvaccinated or who miss their second dose of vaccine are targets of infection, ”Georgia Health Commissioner Dr Kathleen E. Toomey said.
Going into the weekend, 49.5% of Americans of all ages are fully immunized, according to CDC data. Almost 33% of those eligible for vaccination – those aged 12 and over – have not yet received at least one dose.
The mask makes it compulsory to return the vaccinated and unvaccinated
Due to the increased transmissibility of the Delta variant, authorities preach for all Americans – regardless of their vaccination status – to be mindful of their environment.
Aerosols containing Covid-19 can travel as easily as cigarette smoke, said Michael Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota on Friday.
“If you want to understand what an aerosol is, just think of someone who smokes,” Osterholm told CNN. “If you can smell a cigarette where you are, then you are breathing someone else’s air that may contain the virus. “
Osterholm noted that while transmitting the virus indoors is the main challenge, there are examples of Covid-19 transmitted outdoors, when people were close to each other for long periods of time.
For this reason, mask warrants are making a comeback in more cities.
The cities of Birmingham, New Orleans and Louisville each announced plans to reinstate mask mandates to reduce transmission indoors on Friday.
“If we take the necessary steps to reduce the amount of disease that exists now, we can do it in a matter of weeks, if we all get vaccinated, if we wear masks,” CDC director Dr. Rochelle Walensky. News Friday.
The CDC changed its guidelines for mask use this week and advises people vaccinated to resume wearing masks indoors in areas of sustained or high transmission of the virus.
A recent study shows that the Delta variant can produce similar amounts of the virus in both vaccinated and unvaccinated people, but real world data shows that unvaccinated people are at much higher risk of serious illness.
More than 80% of the U.S. population – about 274 million people – live in a county considered to have “high” or “substantial” transmission of Covid-19, according to a CNN analysis of the data released by the CDC on Friday.
Intensive care is filling up again
As the Delta variant spreads, hospitalizations mount to worrying levels.
Mississippi, which has one of the lowest vaccination rates among U.S. states, faces a growing number of Covid-19 patients requiring hospitalization.
Data from the Mississippi Department of Health on Friday showed that of 827 intensive care beds statewide, only 107, or about 13%, are currently available. The 88 beds in the intensive care unit at the University of Mississippi Medical Center, the state’s largest, are full.
State health official Thomas Dobbs said on Thursday that hospitalizations were starting to be seen in younger age groups. He pointed to data which shows 88% of hospitalizations are to unvaccinated people, and this has a “big ripple effect on older, vaccinated Mississippians.”
In Texas, Austin Public Health says the region faces the lowest intensive care bed capacity since the start of the pandemic, with just 16 beds available.
“Our intensive care capacity is reaching a critical point where the level of risk for the whole community has increased dramatically, and not just for those who need treatment for Covid,” Dr Desmar Walkes said on Friday, Austin-Travis County Health Authority. “If we fail to come together as a community now, we are endangering the lives of our loved ones who may need intensive care. “
Statewide, several trauma service areas each had fewer than ten intensive care beds available as of Friday, according to Texas health data. Some of the affected areas include Amarillo, Wichita Falls, Abilene, Killeen, Waco, Beaumont, and Victoria.
Florida healthcare facilities continue to prepare for the outbreak as the AdventHealth hospital system has halted all non-emergency surgeries and procedures due to the high number of Covid-19 hospitalizations.
Dr Neil Finkler, clinical director of AdventHealth Central Florida, said on Friday that more than 90% of currently hospitalized Covid-19 patients are not vaccinated.
“None of these patients thought they had the virus, but the Delta variant has been shown to be so contagious that even young and healthy people, including pregnant patients, are now starting to fill our hospitals,” said Finkler.
CNN’s Deanna Hackney, Lauren Mascarenhas, Deidre McPhillips, Jennifer Henderson, Raja Razek, Brandon Miller and Hollie Silverman contributed to this report.