WASHINGTON (AP) – Nearly half of new coronavirus infections nationwide are in just five states, a situation that is pressuring the federal government to consider changing the way it distributes vaccines by shipping more doses to hotspots. .
New York, Michigan, Florida, Pennsylvania and New Jersey together reported 44% of new COVID-19 infections in the country, or nearly 197,500 new cases, in the latest available seven-day period, according to data from the state agency. compiled by Johns Hopkins University. . Total infections in the United States during the same week amounted to more than 452,000.
The sheer concentration of new cases in states that make up 22% of the US population has prompted some experts and elected officials to ask the administration of President Joe Biden to send additional doses of vaccines to those locations. So far, the White House has shown no signs of changing its policy of dividing vaccine doses among states based on population.
Sending extra doses to places where the number of infections is increasing makes sense, said Dr. Elvin H. Geng, a professor of infectious diseases at the University of Washington. But it is also complicated. States that are more successfully controlling the virus may see fewer vaccines as a result.
“I wouldn’t want to keep those people waiting because they were doing better,” Geng said. “On the other hand, it only makes sense to send vaccines where cases are increasing.”
The increase in cases has been especially pronounced in Michigan, where the seven-day average of daily new infections reached 6,719 cases Sunday, more than double what it was two weeks earlier. Only New York reported a higher number of cases. And California and Texas, which have much larger populations than Michigan, are reporting less than half their number of daily infections.
Although Michigan has had the highest rate of new infections in the past two weeks, Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has said she does not plan to tighten restrictions. She has blamed the rise of the virus on pandemic fatigue, which makes people move more, as well as more contagious variants.
“Taking steps back was not going to fix the problem,” Whitmer said when he received his first shot Tuesday at Ford Field in Detroit, home of the NFL’s Lions. “What we have to do is really put our foot on the vaccine pedal” and urge people to wear masks, maintain social distance and wash their hands.
Whitmer received the vaccine the day after Michigan expanded eligibility to everyone 16 and older. He asked the White House last week during a conference call with governors if it had considered sending an additional vaccine to states battling virus outbreaks. They told him that all the options were on the table.
In New York City, vaccination appointments are still hard to come by. Mayor Bill de Blasio has publicly harangued the federal government about the need for an increased allocation of vaccines almost daily, a refrain he repeated when speaking to reporters Tuesday.
“We still need supply, supply, supply,” de Blasio said, before adding: “But things are really looking up.”
At the state level, Gov. Andrew Cuomo has not publicly called for an increase in New York’s vaccine allocation, even as cases spiked in recent weeks and the number of people hospitalized has stagnated.
In New Jersey, where the seven-day moving average of new daily infections has risen in the past two weeks, from 4,050 daily cases to 4,250, Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy said he constantly talks to the White House about the demand for the vaccine the coronavirus. Although he stopped short of saying he was pushing for more vaccines due to the state’s high infection rate.
Vaccine shipments to New Jersey increased 12% in the past week, Murphy said Monday, though he questioned whether that’s enough.
“We constantly look, okay, we know we are going up, but are we going up at the rate we should be, particularly given the number of cases we have?” Murphy said.
New virus variants are clearly one of the drivers of the increase, said Dr. Kirsten Bibbins-Domingo, director of the department of epidemiology and biostatistics at the University of California, San Francisco. If the increase in cases is not suppressed, more people will get sick and die, he said, and will drive increases in other parts of the country.
The take-home message here is, let’s not jump the gun. There is light at the end of the tunnel. We all see it there. And we will get there. Slow but safe.
-Dr. Elvin H. Geng, professor of infectious diseases at the University of Washington
“There needs to be more vaccines where the virus is,” Bibbins-Domingo said, adding that people should overcome the “scarcity mentality” that makes them think that putting the vaccine in one place will harm people elsewhere.
In Florida, lax protective measures during a busy spring break season likely helped spread variants of the virus, said Jason Salemi, an epidemiologist at the University of South Florida. The seven-day statewide average of daily new infections has surpassed 5,400, a 20% increase over the past two weeks.
While many new infections appear to occur among younger people, Salemi said he is concerned for older people in Florida. About 78% of residents 65 and older have received at least one dose of vaccine, but about 1 million more have yet to receive any vaccines.
“Apparently we have the supply,” Salemi said. “Are these people not planning to get vaccinated?”
There is talk of sending extra shots to some states at a time when the number of daily infections in the US has dropped dramatically compared to a January peak after the Christmas season. However, the seven-day average of daily infections has slowly increased since mid-March.
The five states with the most infections are highlighted. As of Tuesday, 31 US states were reporting seven-day averages of fewer than 1,000 new cases a day.
White House coronavirus coordinator Jeff Zients said Tuesday that more than 28 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines will be delivered to states this week. That allocation will bring the US total to more than 90 million doses distributed in the last three weeks.
The news came as Biden announced that more than 150 million coronavirus vaccines have been administered since he took office and that all adults will be eligible to receive a vaccine by April 19.
More vaccine is needed where the virus is.
-Dr. Kirsten Bibbins-Domingo, Director of the Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics at the University of California, San Francisco
About 40% of American adults have received at least one COVID-19 injection, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. About 23% of American adults have been fully vaccinated, including more than half of Americans 65 and older.
Geng said the nation should step back and go slow. Even a few more weeks of Americans adhering to social distancing and other precautions could make a big difference.
“The take-home message here is, let’s not jump the gun,” Geng said. “There is light at the end of the tunnel. We all see it there. And we will get there. Slow and steady.”
Bynum reported from Savannah, Georgia. Smith reported from Providence, Rhode Island. Associated Press writers Darlene Superville in Washington, David Eggert in Lansing, Michigan, Adriana Gomez Licon in Miami, and Michael Catalini in Trenton, NJ, also contributed to this report.
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