Northern States Account for Biggest Jump in New COVID Cases, Hospitalizations

Less than two months ago, the South found itself inundated with new COVID cases. Six southern states saw their intensive care units reach over 90 percent capacity as the infectious Delta variant spread across the United States.

However, over the past two weeks these states—Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Mississippi and Texas—have all seen their caseloads dip by at least 30 percent, with hospitalizations dropping by at least 22 percent, according to The New York Times COVID tracker.

This trend toward a decline in severe COVID cases has spread throughout the country with America posting a 26 percent drop in daily COVID cases over the past 14 days and a 17 percent drop in hospitalizations. However, 21 states have seen their caseloads and hospitalizations jump, and most of these places happen to be in the north.

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Some researchers have said they are worried that unvaccinated older people could be the most at risk which would potentially precipitate a rise in hospitalizations. Members of the medical staff treat a patient who is wearing helmet-based ventilator in the COVID-19 intensive care unit at the United Memorial Medical Center on July 28, 2020 in Houston, Texas. Photo by Go Nakamura/Getty Images

Alaska (75 percent), Maine (29 percent), North Dakota (25 percent), Minnesota (16 percent), Wisconsin (14 percent), New Hampshire (14 percent), Michigan (14 percent), Idaho (9 percent), Montana (5 percent), and Pennsylvania (1 percent) all saw their COVID cases rise, as of October 1 data.

Similarly, these states made up the bulk of rising hospitalizations. Maine (22 percent), Pennsylvania (19 percent), North Dakota (18 percent), Montana (17 percent), Vermont (17 percent), West Virginia (16 percent), Wisconsin (11 percent), Minnesota (11 percent), Michigan (10 percent), Ohio (9 percent), Idaho (9 percent), Iowa (9 percent), Rhode Island (8 percent), New Hampshire (6 percent), Wyoming (4 percent), Utah (3 percent) Nebraska (3 percent), and Colorado (1 percent) all saw hospitalizations rise.

Stephen Kissler, a research fellow at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, touched on this phenomenon in an interview with the Harvard Gazette. Kissler predicted that as winter hits northern states and more people start moving indoors, unvaccinated individuals could find themselves at greater risk for COVID.

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"We really need near 100 percent vaccination rates in those older age groups," said Stephen Kissler, a research fellow at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. Members of the medical staff treat a patient who is wearing helmet-based ventilator in the COVID-19 intensive care unit at the United Memorial Medical Center on July 28, 2020 in Houston, Texas. Photo by Go Nakamura/Getty Images

In particular, Kissler is worried that unvaccinated older people could be the most at risk which would potentially precipitate a rise in hospitalizations. While Flordia's vaccination rate amongst the elderly was high, it did not hit 100 percent. Kissler said these remaining 5 percent of the unvaccinated can "contribute a lot to severe disease and death."

As the north seeks to limit the spread of COVID and prevent the overcrowding of hospitals, Kessler speculated that a vaccination drive among the elderly could be needed.

"I do still think this winter will probably see, in some parts of the country, similar scenarios to what we saw in parts of the southeastern U.S. this summer, where in some regions hospitals will be very full," Kissler said. "Even 5 percent shy of 100—if 95 percent of those age groups are vaccinated—that remaining 5 percent can still contribute a lot to severe disease and death. We really need near 100 percent vaccination rates in those older age groups."