Covid cases are doubling in several states and hospitals are starting to fill again, especially in states with lower vaccination rates, as the highly contagious Delta variant rips across the country.
Two of the states that were hardest hit last week – Mississippi and Louisiana and – have the worst and fourth worst vaccination rates in the country and are rapidly increasing in Covid hospital admissions.
Louisiana Health Officer Dr. Joseph Kanter said on Friday that the state was in the middle of a “very dangerous rise”. Governor John Bel Edwards said the outbreak there was so severe that the White House labeled Louisiana a “state of concern”. He and Kanter urged everyone, including those fully vaccinated, to wear masks indoors and work from home if possible.
“To keep their own safety, the people of Louisiana should take precautions immediately. Masking and testing will limit death and suffering until we get through it,” he said in a press release. New Orleans officials issued a citywide consultation on indoor masks earlier this week.
The surge in the average new cases, which rose more than 105% in the past week to a seven-day average of 7,592, is causing some Louisiana residents to rush to get vaccinated, state officials said. According to CDC data, only 41.2% of the state’s residents have had at least one Covid shot, but many are rushing to get it as evidence mounts that the Delta variant primarily attacks unvaccinated people, state officials said . More than 58,000 Louisians received their first doses of vaccine last week, up 153% from the previous week, according to data compiled by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Delta Health Center medical staff are waiting in Hollandale, Mississippi on April 27, 2021 to vaccinate people at a pop-up Covid-19 vaccination clinic in that rural Delta community.
Spencer Platt | Getty Images
According to a CNBC analysis of the data compiled by Johns Hopkins University, vaccinations in neighboring Mississippi also rose last week as the average daily cases increased more than 132%, a seven-day average of 910 new cases per day per day. The state has given at least one injection to only 38.6% of its population – making it the last one in the country.
In Mississippi, the state delivered nearly 27,000 first doses in the seven days leading up to Sunday, 42% more than the previous week.
“Y’all, we’re going to have a tough couple of weeks,” said State Health Officer Dr. Thomas Dobbs, the state’s former top epidemiologist, gave a press conference to reporters last week. “Delta hits us very hard. We assume that we will continue to burden the health system further.”
Nationwide, according to CDC data, around 73% of the available hospital beds are currently occupied, around 4.5% are occupied by Covid patients. However, they make up a larger proportion of the ICU beds available and make up about 11.9% of all ICU patients.
In Louisiana, Covid patients use 8.4% of all available beds and about 16.8% of beds in the intensive care unit, according to the CDC. Covid patients in Mississippi occupy 7.2% of all hospital beds and 23% of ICU beds.
Dobbs said there are currently 13 hospitals across Mississippi that have “zero intensive care beds and significantly higher numbers than those with less than 10% availability.” He said 93% of the state’s Covid cases and 89% of deaths in the past month were unvaccinated.
The vaccination rates are also increasing there. The state delivered nearly 27,000 first doses in the seven days through Sunday, a 42% increase from the previous week. Reluctance to take vaccines is high across the state, officials said, adding that they are trying to convince residents one by one to get the vaccinations. State officials begged elderly and vulnerable residents earlier this month to avoid large indoor events.
“We hear everything from the microchip insertion to the depopulation plan with the vaccine to the magnetizing people. I mean you name it, we heard, ”said Dr. State Department of Health’s chief medical officer Dan Edney told reporters last week.
In the meantime, the hospitals are closely monitoring their ventilators.
“Our case numbers are increasing rapidly,” said Dobbs. “Our intensive care unit utilization is rising to a level that has not been achieved since last summer, and we are also seeing an increase in the utilization of our mechanical ventilators.”
CNBC’s Nate Rattner contributed to this coverage.