COVID cases spike even as US hits 200M vaccine milestone

Dec 8, 2021, 10:25 AM | Updated: Dec 9, 2021, 5:21 am
Leanna Arcila, 7, is licked by Watson, a therapy dog with the Pawtucket police department, as she r...

Leanna Arcila, 7, is licked by Watson, a therapy dog with the Pawtucket police department, as she receives her COVID-19 vaccination from Dr. Eugenio Fernandez at Nathanael Greene Elementary School in Pawtucket, R.I., Tuesday, Dec. 7, 2021. (AP Photo/David Goldman)

(AP Photo/David Goldman)

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) — The number of Americans fully vaccinated against COVID-19 reached 200 million Wednesday amid a dispiriting holiday-season spike in cases and hospitalizations that has hit even New England, one of the most highly inoculated corners of the country.

New cases in the U.S. climbed from an average of nearly 95,000 a day on Nov. 22 to almost 119,000 a day this week, and hospitalizations are up 25% from a month ago. The increases are due almost entirely to the delta variant, though the omicron mutation has been detected in about 20 states and is sure to spread even more.

Deaths are running close to 1,600 a day on average, back up to where they were in October. And the overall U.S. death toll less than two years into the crisis could hit another heartbreaking milestone, 800,000, in a matter of days.

The situation is not as dire as last year’s holiday-season surge, before the public had access to COVID-19 vaccines, but the 60% of the U.S. population that is fully vaccinated has not been enough to prevent hot spots.

The cold weather, Thanksgiving gatherings and a big rebound in holiday travel are all believed to be playing a role, along with public weariness with pandemic restrictions.

Lawrence Gostin, director of the WHO Collaborating Center on Public Health Law and Human Rights at Georgetown University, likened the virus to a wildfire.

“You can clear a forest of the shrubbery. But if you leave some shrubs and trees standing, the fire will find them,” Gostin said. “The virus will find you. It is searching for hosts that are not immune. The fact that you live in New England or New York doesn’t insulate you.”

Demand for the vaccine — with recent approval of boosters for all adults and shots for elementary school children — has been high amid the surge and the emergence of the omicron variant, whose dangers are still not fully understood. On Wednesday, Pfizer said that the initial two shots of its vaccine appear significantly less effective against omicron but that a booster dose may offer important protection.

Nearly 48 million people have received a booster, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. White House officials noted the U.S. administered 12.5 million shots last week, the highest weekly total since May.

“And that’s critical progress as we head into the winter and confront the new omicron variant,” White House coronavirus adviser Jeffrey Zients said.

At the same time, some states, notably in highly vaccinated New England, but also in the Midwest, are grappling with some of the worst surges since the start of the pandemic. Hospitals are filling up and reacting by canceling non-urgent surgeries or taking other crisis measures, while states are strongly promoting boosters.

Despite one of the highest vaccination levels in the country — over 74% of the population fully vaccinated — Vermont is coping with its biggest surge yet. In the last week, new cases per day are up 54%, and the number of people in the hospital with COVID-19 has climbed 18%.

The virus is preying on those who haven’t gotten their shots: As of Tuesday, 90% of the COVID-19 patients in intensive care were unvaccinated.

“Obviously, it’s not where we want to be,” Gov. Phil Scott said Tuesday, calling the situation “extremely frustrating.”

More than 400 people were in the hospital with COVID-19 in New Hampshire at the start of the week, breaking the record set last winter.

New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu directed hospitals to set up COVID-19 “surge centers” using space normally reserved for such things as outpatient care.

“Every day for the next several weeks, we’re likely to see a new high in COVID hospitalizations in New Hampshire,” said Steve Ahnen, president of the New Hampshire Hospital Association. “With over 1,000 new cases a day, that number’s not going to do anything but continue to go up.”

Maine likewise is struggling with record-breaking COVID-19 hospitalizations. Gov. Janet Mills on Wednesday activated as many as 75 members of the National Guard to help out.

“The vast majority of patients in our hospitals are unvaccinated. That’s especially true of critical care patients,” said Andy Mueller, CEO of MaineHealth, the state’s biggest health network. “It requires a tremendous amount of our resources to provide care.”

Rhode Island’s largest hospital system, Lifespan, said staffing shortages are at never-before-seen crisis levels, while Kent Hospital said it is near capacity and is considering delaying non-urgent procedures.

Dr. Paari Gopalakrishnan, Kent’s interim president and chief operating officer, said the spike is probably due to “people letting their guards down” during the holidays, and flu season could complicate things further.

New Hampshire plans to hold a “booster blitz” on Saturday at 15 locations. Most appointments were booked.

In Berlin, Vermont, Mike Labounty got his booster Tuesday.

“I have friends that are in their 20s that are getting sick and friends that are 60 that are getting sick,” he said. “The thing you see on Facebook and stuff like that is, ‘I just want this to be over. I’m very sick,’ so I’m just trying to avoid that.”

Elsewhere around the country, Indiana has seen COVID-19 hospital admissions double in the last month and is approaching levels not seen since this time a year ago, before vaccines were widely available.

The number of people in intensive care in Minnesota has reached the highest level yet during the pandemic, with 98% of ICU beds occupied. Teams of military medics have been sent into Michigan and New Mexico.

___

Associated Press writers Kathy McCormack in Concord, New Hampshire; Patrick Whittle in Portland, Maine; and Wilson Ring and Lisa Rathke in Montpelier, Vermont, contributed to this report. Tareen reported from Chicago.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

Associated Press

Today in History: May 28, Dionne quintuplets are born

Today in History Today is Saturday, May 28, the 148th day of 2022. There are 217 days left in the year. Today’s Highlight in History: On May 28, 1863, the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry Regiment, made up of freed Blacks, left Boston to fight for the Union in the Civil War. On this date: In […]
21 hours ago
Associated Press

Russia and China block UN statement on Myanmar crisis

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — China and Russia blocked the U.N. Security Council from issuing a statement Friday expressing concern at the violence and serious humanitarian situation in Myanmar and the “limited progress” on implementing a regional plan to restore peace to the strife-torn Southeast Asian nation, diplomats said Friday evening. The council was briefed virtually […]
21 hours ago
Travelers queue up at the south security checkpoint in the main terminal of Denver International Ai...
Associated Press

Prepare for sticker shock if you are traveling this summer

DALLAS (AP) — Airlines and tourist destinations are expecting monster crowds this summer as travel restrictions ease and pandemic fatigue overcomes lingering fear of contracting COVID-19 during travel. Many forecasters believe the number of travelers will match or even exceed levels in the good-old, pre-pandemic days. However, airlines have thousands fewer employees than they did […]
21 hours ago
Associated Press

Guest lineups for the Sunday news shows

WASHINGTON (AP) — ABC’s “This Week” — Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn.; Rep. Adam Kinzinger, R-Ill. __ NBC’s “Meet the Press” — Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J.; former Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings Blake; Tony Monalto, president of Stand with Parkland. __ CBS’ “Face the Nation” — Murphy; Rep. Val Demings, D-Fla.; Gov. Asa Hutchinson, R-Ark.; Ronnie Garza, […]
21 hours ago
Associated Press

Officials: Ex-Alaska attorney general faces abuse charges

JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) — A special prosecutor said Friday that he has filed charges of sexual abuse of a minor in the third degree against former Alaska Attorney General Clyde “Ed” Sniffen. Gregg Olson said the charges were filed Friday but he did not yet have a stamped copy of the documents or a case […]
21 hours ago
FILE - Milwaukee Bucks acting coach Darvin Ham watches during the first half of the team's NBA bask...
Associated Press

AP source: Lakers choose Darvin Ham as next head coach

LOS ANGELES (AP) — A person with knowledge of the decision says Darvin Ham has accepted an offer to be the next head coach of the Los Angeles Lakers. The person spoke with The Associated Press on Friday on condition of anonymity because the deal has not been publicly announced. The 48-year-old Ham is getting […]
21 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

...
Christina O’Haver

Stroke month: Experts call attention to stroke prevention

Every 40 seconds—that’s how often someone has a stroke in the United States. It’s the fifth leading cause of death among Americans, with someone dying of a stroke every 3.5 minutes.
...
Carla Berg, MHS, Deputy Director, Public Health Services, Arizona Department of Health Services

ADHS mobile program brings COVID-19 vaccines and boosters to Arizonans

The Arizona Department of Health Services and partner agencies are providing even more widespread availability by making COVID-19 vaccines available in neighborhoods through trusted community partners.
...
By Dr. Richard Carmona

Now’s a great time to receive your COVID-19 vaccine

If you haven’t received a COVID-19 vaccine yet, now’s the time to join many other of your fellow Arizonans who are doing so right now. No one will criticize you; there is no shame. In fact, you’ll be welcomed with smiles and open arms!
COVID cases spike even as US hits 200M vaccine milestone