The United States has returned to the grim milestone of 100,000 new coronavirus infections per day. As the highly transmissible Delta variant surges and vaccination rates remain low in some parts of the country, infection rates are returning to levels not seen since last winter, before vaccines were available.
Fifty percent of Americans are vaccinated and 70 percent of adults have at least received one dose of the vaccine. Children under 12 are still not eligible for the vaccine. But despite widely available vaccines, many states across the south, such as Florida and Tennessee, have dismal vaccine uptake, leaving their populations vulnerable to the new variant.
Florida is making up 20 percent of the nation’s new infections and hospitalizations, as Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis does everything but fight the virus. The 2024 hopeful has played footsies with anti-vaxxers and has complained that the federal government is trying to curb individual “freedom” at the mere suggestion that he take action to curb the spread of coronavirus in his state.
This latest surge comes right as the school year is set to begin. Adults refusing to get vaccinated combined with officials weary of imposing mask mandates at schools across the country has created a nightmare for parents, teachers, and students attempting to stay safe from the virus. DeSantis threatened to withhold funding from Broward County schools after the district tried to implement a mask mandate for the school year. In Tennessee, the state House Speaker Cameron Sexton threatened to call a special legislative session to provide vouchers for parents to change schools if any district shuts down or imposes a mask mandate. Meanwhile, the number of children infected with coronavirus is on the rise.
It’s not just new infections. The vaccines have so far proven to largely prevent serious illness and hospitalization, but the unvaccinated are causing a surge in hospitalizations too. The Southeast has seen a 50 percent increase in hospitalizations, leaving health care workers overworked and hospitals overrun. Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, and Mississippi account for 40 percent of hospitalizations—in those states doctors are worried about running out of beds and turning patients away eerily reminiscent of the early days of the pandemic. “We are seeing a surge like we’ve not seen before in terms of the patients coming,” Dr. Marc Napp, a Florida doctor told the Associated Press earlier this week. “It’s the sheer number coming in at the same time. There are only so many beds, so many doctors, only so many nurses.”