While some people are acting like the COVID-19 pandemic is on the way out, thanks to cases declining, the virus is still at levels that would have made our “jaws drop” just months ago, said Dr. Michael Osterholm, an epidemiologist and director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota, on his podcast yesterday. Which states are in the most danger? Read on to see which states are in trouble and how you can stay safe—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don’t miss these Sure Signs You’ve Already Had COVID.
“If we look at what’s happening, we see this ongoing flow of what I have called before ‘viral lava’ from those original cases that showed up in the Ozarks, to the spread through the Southern Sunbelt states, to the Southeastern part of the country on into the mid-Atlantic, and then upwards towards the Northeast. We haven’t seen the virus sweet further than the mid-Atlantic states. The Northeast has largely been speared with the exception of those Northern border states: Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine. They have seen sizeable increases just in the past two weeks. Maine had a 24% increase, New Hampshire and 18% increase in cases while the virus was emerging on the Eastern side of the United States.” Keep reading to hear about your neck of the woods.
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Speaking of the Northeast spread, Osterholm said: “We also saw a similar situation in the Northwest with early cases showing up in Oregon and Washington, particularly Eastern parts of the state and causing a very similar kind of surge activity that was being seen in the East Coast area. Following the initial surges of activity in Oregon and Washington, we then saw the virus literally start to impact states adjacent to those, into Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, Utah, Northern California, Northern Nevada. And we went through a similar two months cycle in those locations. Now they too are largely showing substantial increases in those areas, but what’s happened, we’re now seeing it show up in the upper Midwest cases. North Dakota is up 23% in the last two weeks, Michigan up 23%, Minnesota, 16%. This is now another hot spot in the country and emerging. So from where I sit today here in Minneapolis, St. Paul, I don’t see those pandemic going away. In fact, just the opposite. “
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“So what can I say generally is happening?” Osterholm asked. “Well, first of all, rural parts of the country are getting hit particularly hard and they have throughout this past summer. A recent analysis from Kaiser Health found that COVID death rates in rural parts of the country are more than two times higher than their urban counterparts, an outcome that is being attributed to differences in vaccination rates and less access to specialized care in many rural areas. For example, many of these rural counties don’t have hospitals, have ICU beds, and during the height of the pandemic surge could not be transferred to metropolitan area hospital systems because of the lack of beds. So while I welcome these overall declines, I also think about how much pain and suffering came from the preceding surge. And I remember that we’re not in the clear—for example, crisis standards of care have now been implemented in Alaska and under consideration in North Dakota with some doctors now being forced to decide who gets care based on the likelihood of survival.”
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“Other states, including my own here in Minnesota, are still reporting substantial increases in cases,” said Osterholm. “Again, I can’t always figure out when and why these rises and falls happen, but based on what we’ve seen internationally and where we currently stand with vaccination rates in this country, we will clearly see more surges. Remember that there are 65 million Americans, 12 years of age and older, who could be vaccinated right now and are not. They will continue to serve as a critical source of cases for future surges. And also remember that there’ve been some areas that have not hit with this surge that will in the future—listeners in New York and Southern California, don’t want to hear this. But if you look at the rates of vaccinations in those areas, there’s nothing special about them. They have millions of people who are fully susceptible to this virus, and don’t be surprised about a future surge, either one of those or both of those. It’s going to happen.”
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Follow the public health fundamentals and help end this pandemic, no matter where you live—get vaccinated ASAP; if you live in an area with low vaccination rates, wear an N95 face mask, don’t travel, social distance, avoid large crowds, don’t go indoors with people you’re not sheltering with (especially in bars), practice good hand hygiene, and to protect your life and the lives of others, don’t visit any of these 35 Places You’re Most Likely to Catch COVID.