‘We are on fire’: Five U.S. states set new records for Covid cases as hospitalizations rise

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Five states broke records for the average number of daily new Covid cases over the weekend as the delta variant strains hospital systems across the U.S. and forces many states to reinstate public health restrictions.

Florida, Louisiana, Hawaii, Oregon and Mississippi all reached new peaks in their seven-day average of new cases per day as of Sunday, according to a CNBC analysis of data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. On a per capita basis, Louisiana, Mississippi and Florida are suffering from the three worst outbreaks in the country.


Daily new Covid cases per 100,000 residents

Louisiana

Mississippi

Florida

150

126

110

101

100

50

0

Jul. ’20

Jan. ’21

Jul. ’21

Hawaii

Oregon

United States

150

100

47

50

39

39

0

Jul. ’20

Jan. ’21

Jul. ’21

Note: Lines show seven-day average of daily new cases.

Source: Johns Hopkins University, CNBC analysis. As of August 15, 2021.

​ ​

Daily new Covid cases per

100,000 residents

Louisiana

150

126

100

50

0

Jul. ’20

Jan. ’21

Jul. ’21

Mississippi

150

110

100

50

0

Jul. ’20

Jan. ’21

Jul. ’21

Florida

150

101

100

50

0

Jul. ’20

Jan. ’21

Jul. ’21

Hawaii

150

100

47

50

0

Jul. ’20

Jan. ’21

Jul. ’21

Oregon

150

100

39

50

0

Jul. ’20

Jan. ’21

Jul. ’21

United States

150

100

39

50

0

Jul. ’20

Jan. ’21

Jul. ’21

Note: Lines show seven-day average of daily

new cases.

Source: Johns Hopkins University, CNBC

analysis. As of August 15, 2021.

Daily new Covid cases per 100,000 residents

Louisiana

Mississippi

Florida

150

126

110

101

100

50

0

Jul.

Jan.

Jul.

’20

’21

’21

Hawaii

Oregon

United States

150

100

47

50

39

39

0

Jul.

Jan.

Jul.

’20

’21

’21

Note: Lines show seven-day average of daily new cases.

Source: Johns Hopkins University, CNBC analysis. As of August 15, 2021.

​ ​

Louisiana recorded an average of 126 cases per 100,000 residents as of Sunday, more than three times the national average, while Mississippi and Florida averaged 110 and 101 cases per 100,000 residents, respectively, according to the data.

“We’re in the middle of the summer, people are gathering again with people, they’re in large groups, the vaccine has given a false sense of security in some ways to people, and they forget,” Dr. Perry Halkitis, dean of the Rutgers School of Public Health, told CNBC in an interview.

Louisiana

The surging delta variant has hit the Gulf Coast particularly hard, pushing hospitals to their limits. To try to curb the outbreak in Louisiana, officials in July recommended masks indoors for everyone, regardless of whether or not they were vaccinated. They reintroduced a statewide mask mandate on Aug. 2 after it was obvious that wasn’t working and cases kept climbing.

Everyone must now wear masks indoors regardless of their vaccination status, including all students from kindergarten through college.

Louisiana has the fifth-lowest vaccination rate of any state in the country, with 38.3% of its population fully immunized against the coronavirus, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Louisiana reported a record-high seven-day average of more than 5,800 new Covid cases as of Sunday, an increase of nearly 27% from a week ago, according to Hopkins data.

Louisiana recorded a seven-day average of 44 Covid-related deaths as of Sunday, over 46% more than a week prior. Almost half of the state’s 882 reported intensive care unit beds were occupied by coronavirus patients as of Monday, compared with a nationwide average of 25%, according the Department of Health and Human Services.

Mississippi

Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves, a Republican, pleaded Friday with residents to get vaccinated as the state scrambles to hire hundreds of temporary doctors, nurses and EMTs.

He’s also requested ventilators from the Strategic National Stockpile as the spread of the delta variant fills hospitals in the state with mostly unvaccinated patients. Almost 55% of Mississippi’s ICU beds were filled with Covid patients as of Monday, and the state’s seven-day average of nearly 3,300 new coronavirus cases as of Sunday jumped 57% from a week ago.

“When you look across the country, to a certain extent, this current wave is the pandemic of the unvaccinated,” Reeves said at a press conference. “We continue to see more and more data, and the data is becoming more and more clear. Those who received the vaccine are significantly less likely to contract the virus.”

Mississippi has the nation’s second-lowest coronavirus vaccination rate, with 35.8% of its population fully immunized as of Sunday. The state’s death toll also hit a seven-day average of 20, up almost 80% from a week ago.

Florida

Florida reported a record 151,764 new Covid cases for the week on Friday, reaching a new seven-day average of 21,681 cases per day — more than any other state. More than half of the ICU beds in the state are occupied by Covid patients, according to HHS data.

Florida’s surge in cases comes as Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis continues to resist calls from the Biden administration and state advocacy groups to enforce mask mandates and other pandemic-related measures to help contain the massive outbreak. He signed an executive order and law in May that lifted all Covid restrictions across the state and permanently blocked local officials from enacting new ones starting July 1.

In late July, DeSantis issued a controversial executive order that blocked mask mandates in the state’s schools, overruling two counties that required face coverings for their students.

Oregon

Oregon Gov. Kate Brown, a Democrat, is deploying up to 1,500 National Guard members to assist the state’s health systems as Covid hospitalizations set a new record three days in a row, standing at 733 on Friday. The state recorded 1,765 new cases on Friday, bringing its seven-day average to 1,652, according to the most recent data available.

The state reimplemented an indoor mask mandate on Friday for everyone, including fully vaccinated people, in response to the surge in hospitalizations.

Hawaii

Though Hawaii’s outbreak is relatively small compared with most mainland states, cases there have repeatedly been reaching new records since mid-July, hitting a seven-day average of 671 new cases per day on Sunday, according to Hopkins data.

That’s a more-than-sevenfold jump from 89 cases per day a month ago. The recent surge in cases has caught health officials by surprise and is starting to strain the state’s hospital systems. The total number of hospitalizations on the islands is 3,030, with 552 deaths recorded since the beginning of the pandemic.

“We are on fire. When we have hospitals that are really worried about being able to take care of people, that’s a crisis,” Hawaii’s health director, Dr. Elizabeth Char, said at a press conference last week. “When we see this exponential growth in the amount of people that are getting infected with Covid-19 every day — 2,000 people in the last three days — that’s a crisis. And at the point at which we overwhelm our resources, that’s a disaster.”

Hospitalization rates in Hawaii and Oregon, however, aren’t as high as other states. Nationwide, less than 11% of all hospital beds are being used by Covid patients. In Oregon, it’s 11.4%, Hawaii is at 12.1%, followed by Louisiana at 20.4%, Mississippi at 18.7% and Florida at 28.2%, according to HHS data.

Hospital bed capacity correlates very closely with vaccination rates. The states with higher vaccination rates are seeing fewer Covid patients take up hospital beds. Oregon has fully vaccinated 56.8% of its residents, followed by Hawaii at 54.3%, Florida at 50.3%, Louisiana at 38.3% and Mississippi at 35.8%.

“That is why Florida, Louisiana and Mississippi are hurting with bed capacity and ascending death rates, while Oregon and Hawaii are hurting with explosive case rates, but with high vaccination and masking rates, may not ever be in the same precarious position,” said Dr. Peter Chin-Hong, an infectious disease expert at University of California in San Francisco.

As of Sunday, the national seven-day average of new cases stands at 130,710, an increase of 20% from the previous seven-day average, according to Hopkins data. The seven-day average for Covid deaths nationwide rose to 687, up 36% from the previous average.

“We know what the tools are, and now this comes down to policy and political decisionmakers’ value judgment to determine which tools they want to implement,” Dr. Isaac Bogoch, an infectious disease expert at University of Toronto, told CNBC.

Correction: This article has been updated to reflect the correct percentages of fully vaccinated people in Oregon, Hawaii, Florida, Louisiana and Mississippi.

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