The Southern Pandemic


https://view.newsletters.time.com/?qs=b30eec7a6d02a7e20c01aca4b8e56821af061113f7bf190d94622834c95fdc029a33b175fe02efd0b70cadd267cdc0e72ee0db92cafa93af6570013e356c664dc1c4170d6dba1f77fb29dee1f7b89d3a

Any COVID-19 uptick is a tragedy, but the first major U.S. surge since the start of the vaccination rollout has been uniquely painful to watch because it likely could have been prevented. The Delta variant has driven up cases across the country, with the worst outbreaks in southern states where vaccination rates fall far short of that of the country as a whole, which is nearly half vaccinated. A few examples:

  • In Louisiana, 37.1% of the population is fully vaccinated and the seven-day average of new cases is 4,622, up from 1,426 two weeks ago.
  • In Arkansas, 36.6% of the population is fully vaccinated and the seven-day average of new cases has nearly doubled over the last two weeks to 1,900 new cases a day.
  • In Alabama, 34.4% of the population is fully vaccinated and the seven-day average for daily cases has tripled over the last two weeks to 2,400 new cases a day.
  • In Mississippi—which has the country’s lowest vaccination rate, at 34.5%—the number of new cases has nearly tripled in the last two weeks; it’s now reporting a seven-day average of nearly 1,700 daily cases.

These surges have left many people scrambling to protect themselves, with several hard-hit states reporting an increase in vaccine uptake. In Louisiana, for example, about 52,000 doses were administered during the week ending July 31, compared to about 20,000 the week ending July 10. Unfortunately, people getting vaccinated now won’t be fully protected for another two to four weeks, depending on the shot they receive, meaning the virus will likely continue to spread for some time.

At least some southern governors are taking steps to prevent that, turning to tried and true methods like masking to contain viral spread. Louisiana governor John Bel Edwards (D), for instance, issued an order yesterday mandating face masks in many indoor public settings, including businesses, schools and churches. “I cannot in good conscience sit by while our hospitals lose the capacity to deliver life-saving care to COVID patients and non-COVID patients alike,” Edwards said when announcing the new rules, which begin tomorrow and are currently set to expire Sept. 1.

However, the leaders of other badly hit states are not following suit. Mississippi governor Tate Reeves (R), for instance, has rejected the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) updated guidance calling for indoor masking in areas with substantial viral spread, calling it “foolish.” The state may continue to pay the price; Mississippi hospitals are reportedly struggling to find enough nurses to care for patients, even as the state health officer warned last week that new hospitalizations are “skyrocketing” (as of July 27, Mississippi’s seven-day average for new hospitalizations was 126, compared to about 20 on July 1).

The best anyone can do in these states now is get vaccinated, mask up, and socially distance whenever possible. Delta burned hot but fast in India and the United Kingdom, and it’s possible it will do the same in the States as well.


TODAY’S CORONAVIRUS OUTLOOK

Over 400.6 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine have been shipped to various U.S. states as of this afternoon, of which some 347 million doses had been administered, according to TIME’s vaccine tracker. About 49.7% of Americans had been completely vaccinated.

Nearly 198.9 million people around the world had been diagnosed with COVID-19 as of 1 a.m. E.T. today, and more than 4.2 million people have died. On August 2, there were 556,672 new cases and 7,784 new deaths confirmed globally.

Here’s how the world as a whole is currently trending:

Here’s where daily cases have risen or fallen over the last 14 days, shown in confirmed cases per 100,000 residents:

And here’s every country that has reported over 3 million cases:

The U.S. had recorded more than 35.1 million coronavirus cases as of 1 a.m. E.T. today. Nearly 614,000 people have died. On August 2, there were 127,976 new cases and 451 new deaths confirmed in the U.S.

Here’s how the country as a whole is currently trending:

Here’s where daily cases have risen or fallen over the last 14 days, shown in confirmed cases per 100,000 residents:

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