Low vaccination rates are causing surges in pockets of the United States like Arkansas and Los Angeles County alongside the increased infectiousness of the Delta variant. Experts are saying that even those who are vaccinated should return to wearing masks if they have stopped doing so and that mask mandates should be reinstated. Hospitalized patients have been younger than with the original strain and other variants, mostly ranging in adults aged 30–39; young adults around the age of 18 are at a record high as well. States like Georgia, Tennessee, South Carolina, and Louisiana have seen a double in the number of children vaccinated in the past week.
Researchers have described the surge seen in Arkansas as a “runaway train” and a “raging forest fire that will continue to grow in size and strength.” The University of Arkansas Fay W. Boozman College of Public Health for Medical Sciences has forecasted an average of 1,039 more cases per day over the next week. They are also predicting an average of 169 new cases a day in children under 17 years of age.
The vaccination rate is one of the lowest in the country, sitting at 35 percent, at the same time they also have one of the highest rates of new cases of COVID-19. Florida, however, has been reported by the CDC to have the most number of new cases in the past week and have had the most deaths due to COVID-19.
A preprint study reported that the viral load of the Delta variant is over 1,000 times higher than the original, making it easier to spread from person to person. Because of this, even highly vaccinated states like California, are seeing a spike in cases. Los Angeles county has reported ten straight days of over 1,000 new cases a day. Los Angeles County has put its indoor mask mandate back in place, while other LA counties have encouraged it but have not mandated it.
Chicago has reinstated travel restrictions, including requiring a negative COVID test result or a ten-day quarantine from travelers entering from Arkansas and Missouri, two states considered hot spots.
Dr. George Rutherford III, a professor of epidemiology at the University of California, San Francisco said, “when you look at a map of the country, there are large swaths where vaccination rates are low and there wasn’t enough natural acquired immunity, especially in the face of the delta variant.”
Although the Delta variant has a higher infectiousness rate even among vaccinated individuals, they are seeing less severe symptoms, showing the effectiveness of the current vaccines on the market.
Dr. Gregory Poland, a professor of medicine and infectious disease at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota stresses the importance of not behaving like the pandemic is over. “The message has to be vaccines and masks, not one or the other, get the vaccine, and when you’re in a crowd, when you’re indoors, wear a mask. That’s what I do, what my medical colleagues do. It’s the safest course if we want to beat this thing back. Otherwise, we’re going to be in a cycle and people will needlessly die.”