For unvaccinated people in parts of the country, the risk of Covid-19 is higher than ever, said Dr Craig Spencer, director of global health in emergency medicine at Columbia University Medical Center.
“If you’re not vaccinated, the risk is incredibly high – and maybe in some areas, higher than ever because there is no mask warrant, people are enjoying this wonderful comeback. summer and are a little more carefree and nonchalant and make it more possible that you are exposed, ”Spencer told CNN’s Anderson Cooper on Friday.
Because the virus is circulating at high levels in some areas, Spencer said people vaccinated should “continue to be smart,” but they are highly unlikely to get sick, be hospitalized or die from Covid-19.
Even in areas with higher vaccination rates, authorities are starting to reinstate security protocols such as mask warrants to try to curb the spread. Los Angeles County this week reinstated its indoor mask mandate for both vaccinated and unvaccinated people. And San Francisco Bay Area health officials announced Friday that they are recommending that everyone wear masks indoors.
With growing concern, local authorities may decide to go further to contain the spread of Covid-19 with guidelines on masks, said Dr Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.
“In certain circumstances, where you have a high level of infection dynamics – whether in Los Angeles or elsewhere – local authorities have the discretion to go the extra mile or go the extra step necessary to ensure that The spread of this virus is really contained, and they are doing it by saying that everyone should wear a mask, ”Fauci said Friday in an interview with NBC Nightly News.
About 48.4% of the U.S. population is fully vaccinated, according to the latest data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The rate of vaccinations over an average of seven days decreased by 13% compared to the previous week.
Among states that have fully vaccinated less than half of their residents, the average rate of Covid-19 cases was 11 new cases per 100,000 people last week, compared to 4 per 100,000 among states that have fully vaccinated more of half of its residents, according to a CNN Analysis of Johns Hopkins University data.
“I don’t think we’ve seen the worst”
Local authorities continue to sound the alarm bells on the increase in cases, especially among the unvaccinated. Twenty states have fully immunized more than half of their residents, according to the CDC, but in states with fewer immunizations, health facility resources are strained.
Katie Towns, acting director of the Springfield-Greene County Health Department in Missouri, told CNN’s Ana Cabrera on Friday that the department is asking for an alternative care site and state staff to deal with the number. growing number of Covid-19 cases and hospitalizations.
“It’s at a level we’ve never seen before,” Towns said, noting that area hospitals have reached capacity this week.
“The most striking is the demographics and the age,” she said of the sick. “The disease has really gone from an older population… to 20, 30, 40 years in the hospital and needs intensive care and oxygen. ”
Cities have said that “almost all” of the hospital’s patients are unvaccinated, and hospitals and health officials are predicting an increase in numbers after the July 4 vacation.
“I don’t think we’ve seen the worst,” Towns said when asked where the county is in the fight against the pandemic.
In Louisiana, Governor John Bel Edwards said on Friday that since February, 97% of cases and deaths linked to Covid-19 have been people who are not fully vaccinated.
Unvaccinated healthcare workers cause staffing problems
While health officials have preached the need for Americans to get vaccinated, one industry in particular is also facing a growing crisis with unvaccinated workers: healthcare.
In one example, the University of Florida Health Jacksonville Hospital is experiencing staffing issues due to unvaccinated staff and is seeing a slight increase in hospitalizations from Covid-19, according to Chad Neilsen, director of infection prevention.
The hospital has seen a 50% increase in Covid-19 admissions over the past two weeks and 10% more Covid-19 patients per day, Neilsen told CNN. The average age of admission for Covid-19 hospital patients is 54, the lowest ever seen by UF Health Jacksonville.
Staff at the hospital are becoming a big deal, Neilsen noted, as unvaccinated staff are exposed and contract Covid-19 in addition to suffering burnout. According to the director, there is only about 52% vaccine compliance among UF Health Jacksonville employees.
“Unvaccinated employees seem to take longer to recover and return to work,” Neilsen said, as the hospital considers putting elective surgeries on hold.
The decline in immunization rates among healthcare workers is not confined to hospitals alone. According to a new analysis from the AARP, only 56% of healthcare workers in nursing homes are fully immunized. The organization says only one in five nursing homes have met the industry target of having 75% of staff fully immunized.
Nationally, many more residents than staff are fully immunized, according to the analysis. While the number of nursing home deaths declined dramatically after the vaccine was deployed, AARP attributed a third of all Covid-19 deaths in the United States during the pandemic to residents and staff of the homes nursing and long-term care facilities.
“This national tragedy cannot be repeated,” said Nancy LeaMond, executive vice president of AARP and head of advocacy and engagement in a press release for the organization. “With cases increasing again across the country and given the highly contagious Delta variant, every effort must be made to protect vulnerable nursing home residents. “
The Association of American Medical Colleges on Friday urged all of its member institutions to require Covid-19 vaccinations for employees to protect patients and healthcare workers, as the Delta variant continues to circulate.
“Across the country, we are seeing growing evidence that currently unvaccinated people continue to be at high risk of contracting Covid-19 and constitute the overwhelming majority of new hospitalizations,” the president of the hospital said on Friday. AAMC, Dr David Sorkin, saying the variants are exacerbating the pandemic and vaccinations are needed to mitigate the spread.
“Nowhere is this more important than in hospitals, where healthcare workers – who have been heroic during this pandemic – care for patients with a wide variety of health problems assuming the healthcare professionals who treating them is not at risk of acquiring or transmitting Covid-19, ”Sorkin said.
“Yet we have tragically lost some healthcare workers to the coronavirus, while others have brought the infection home to their families. Vaccinating the health personnel of our member establishments saves lives. “
CNN’s Lauren Mascarenhas, Jen Christensen, Jacqueline Howard, Laine Mackey, Deidre McPhillips, Leyla Santiago and Sara Weisfeldt contributed to this report.