U.S. counties in the South and West are seeing an increase in coronavirus cases as the Indian ‘Delta’ variant continues to spread.
Areas in states such as Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi and Wyoming are reporting between 100 and 500 cases per 100,000 people over the last seven days, according to a recent report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
This is much higher than the national average of 23.9 infections per 100,000.
Health officials say low vaccination rates are the problem and that the virus is transmitting rapidly in undervaccinated regions of the U.S.
All five states have vaccinated fewer than 35 percent of their total populations, which is lower than the national average of 45.6 percent, CDC data show.
The states are also all reporting a rise in cases linked to the Delta variant, with some saying more than half of all new infections are associated with the strain.
Former FDA commissioner Dr Scott Gottlieb has warned that America is likely to see constrained outbreaks of the Delta variant in certain communities rather than widespread outbreaks.
‘It’s not going to be as pervasive,’ he said in an appearance on CBS’ Face the Nation on Sunday,
‘It’s going to hyper-regionalized. There’s certain pockets of the country where you’re going to have very dense outbreaks.’
Counties in Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi and Wyoming reported between 100 and 500 cases per 100,000 in the last week, compared to the national average of 23.9 cases per 100,000
Arkansas has seen an average of 300 cases per day in the last week, an increase from 200 the last month, and 56% of all cases and, in Mississippi, there has been 18% increase in the seven-day rolling average of cases from 111 to 132
All five states have fully vaccinated 35% or fewer residents, lower than the national average of 45.6%, and only three counties between the five have fully vaccinated more than 50%
As of Tuesday, the variant accounts for 20.6 percent of all COVID-19 infections, up from 9.9 percent two weeks ago, according to the CDC.
Known as B.1.617.2, the Delta variant has been labeled as a ‘double mutant’ by India’s Health Ministry because it carries two mutations: L452R and E484Q.
L452R is the same mutation seen with the California homegrown variant and E484Q is similar to the mutation seen in the Brazilian and South African variants.
Both of the mutations occur on key parts of the virus that allows it to enter and infect human cells.
Gottlieb says he believes that what is happening in the UK is a foreshadowing of what’s to come in the U.S.
That means the 20 percent figure is only expected to rise.
‘I think as you look across the United States, if you’re a community that has low vaccination rates and you also think that there was low immunity from prior infection, so the virus really hasn’t coursed through the local population, those communities are vulnerable,’ he told Face the Nation .
‘So, I think governors need to be thinking about how they build out health care resources in areas of the country where you still have a lot of vulnerability.’
Only three counties in Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi and Wyoming have fully vaccinated more than 50 percent of residents.
In one of the states – Arkansas – officials report that only has 35 percent of the total population have completed their vaccine series.
Arkansas has seen an average of 300 cases per day, an increase from 200 the last month, and health officials say the Delta variant is to blame.
Currently, 56 percent of all cases in the state that undergo genetic sequencing are linked to Delta.
Health experts say low vaccination rates will help the Indian ‘Delta’ variant spread, which currently makes up 20% of American cases, up from 9.9% two weeks ago
Former FDA commissioner Dr Scott Gottlieb said on Sunday (pictured) he expects outbreaks of the Indian ‘Delta’ variant to rise in areas with low vaccination rates
‘That tells us that the variant is spreading widely and that it’s spreading quickly,’ Dr Jennifer Dillaha, the Director of Epidemiology for the Arkansas Department of Health told Action News 5.
‘My concern is that if people are not immune to it, then this variant will find them and infect them and cause illness.’
Governor Asa Hutchinson of Arkansas said hospitalizations are up 30 percent and encouraged residents to get vaccinated.
‘The Delta variant is a great concern to us. We see that impacting our increasing cases and hospitalizations,’ Hutchinson told Face the Nation.
‘We’ve got to make sure we do everything we can to get the word out, which we have. We have used incentives that have not been very successful. We’ve obviously done marketing for our vaccines. We are educating, doing everything we can.’
In Mississippi, health officials said there a growing number of cases linked to the Delta variant.
According to WAPT, state epidemiologist Dr Paul Byers said there have been at least 60 cases associated with the variant since the fist infection was identified a few weeks ago.
The state is currently averaging 132 COVID-19 infections per day, an 18 percent increase from 111 from earlier this month.
Meanwhile, less than 30 percent of the population is fully vaccinated.
‘The vaccine is still effective against it, but remember that a vaccine is not 100 percent,’ Byers said.
‘And when you have an individual in congregate settings in very close contact and put in a place with highly infectious variants, there is a possibility of transmission.’