Rural U.S. Areas With Low Vaccine Rates Drive New Covid Uptick

A handful of states with below-average vaccination rates are driving the most recent Covid-19 uptick in the U.S. as the delta variant spreads and people are more active.

Arkansas’s case rate is the highest, while in Missouri, infections are at levels not seen since February and hospital admissions are up 24% in a week. The two small states accounted for a tenth of new U.S. infections in the last week. Nevada, Utah and Wyoming are also among the worst, with populations sparse and vaccinations behind the curve.

Rural U.S. Areas With Low Vaccine Rates Drive New Covid Uptick

Cases across the U.S. are low -- a seven-day average of about 21,000 new cases compared with more than 200,000 in January. Still, they’re inching up as vaccines slow. Some rural counties in hot-spot states, like Missouri, have only fully vaccinated a fifth of their residents. Infections there are being predominantly driven by the more transmissible delta variant.

That’s changing the landscape of infection in the U.S. In early May, rural areas were reporting the lowest new case rates, but the most recent uptick has propelled them.

Still, with more Americans vaccinated, especially older, vulnerable groups, there’s been a decoupling of hospitalizations and deaths from the number of new cases, said Jay Butler, deputy director for infectious diseases at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“That has shifted hospitalization to a younger group of the population,” Butler said, who are less likely to be hospitalized or die.

“We’re seeing positive effects of the vaccination program,” Butler said. “But it ain’t over till it’s over.” He also said that medical workers have more experience and better tools to treat the disease, which may be helping drive down hospitalizations and deaths.

The U.S. is reporting a seven-day case rate of about 45 per 100,000 residents, and hospitalizations are near their lowest levels since the start of the pandemic.

The pace of vaccinations has fallen to an average of about 533,000 per day, according to Bloomberg’s vaccine tracker, with about 56% of the population having received at least one dose.

The U.S. has fully vaccinated 48% of its population. Missouri and Arkansas have vaccinated 40% and and 35%, respectively.

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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