Editor’s Note: The video above is Government DeWine talking about COVID-19 in Ohio.
(AP) – Nearly half of new coronavirus infections nationwide are in just five states – a situation that is putting pressure on the federal government to consider changing how it distributes vaccines by sending multiple doses to hot spots.
New York, Michigan, Florida, Pennsylvania and New Jersey together reported 44% of the country’s new COVID-19 infections, or nearly 197,500 new cases in the last available seven-day period, according to data from the State Health Agency collected by Johns Hopkins University. Total U.S. infections in the same week were more than 452,000.
The heavy concentration of new cases in states, which account for 22% of the U.S. population, has prompted some experts and elected officials to urge President Joe Biden’s administration to send additional doses of vaccine to those sites. So far, the White House has shown no signs of shifting from its policy of splitting vaccine doses between states based on population.
Sending extra doses to places where the number of infections is increasing makes sense, said Dr. Elvin H. Geng, Professor of Infectious Diseases at Washington University. But it is also complicated. States that more successfully control the virus may see less vaccine as a result.
“You do not want to make these people wait because they are doing better,” Geng said. “On the other hand, it only makes sense to send vaccines where cases are rising.”
The peak of cases is particularly pronounced in Michigan, where the seven-day average of daily new infections reached 6,719 cases on Sunday – more than double what it was two weeks earlier. Only New York reported higher case numbers. And California and Texas, which have far larger populations than Michigan, report less than half the number of daily infections.
Although Michigan has seen the highest rate of new infections in the past two weeks, Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has said she has no plans to tighten restrictions. She has blamed the virus strain on pandemic fatigue, which causes people to move more and more infectious variants.
“Taking steps back would not solve the problem,” Whitmer said when she received her first vaccine Tuesday at Ford Field in Detroit, home of the NFL’s Lions. “What we need to do is really put our foot down on the pedal of vaccines” and encourage people to wear masks, keep their social distance and wash their hands.
Whitmer got the shot the day after Michigan extended the eligibility to all 16 and older. She asked the White House last week during a conference call with governors whether it has considered sending additional vaccines to states fighting virus outbreaks. She was told that all options were on the table.
In New York City, vaccination agreements are still challenging to obtain. Mayor Bill de Blasio has publicly prosecuted the federal government over the need for a larger vaccine allotment almost daily, a waiver he reiterated when he spoke to reporters Tuesday.
“We still need supply, supply, supply,” de Blasio said before adding, “But things are really getting better.”
At the state level, Government Andrew Cuomo has not publicly called for an increase in New York’s vaccine allocation, although cases have risen in recent weeks and the number of hospitalized people has hit a plateau.
In New Jersey, where the seven-day rolling average of daily new infections has risen over the past two weeks, from 4,050 daily cases to 4,250, Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy said he is constantly talking to the White House about demand for the coronavirus vaccine, though he stopped saying he was lobbying for more vaccines because of the state’s high infection rate.
Vaccine transportation to New Jersey rose 12% in the past week, Murphy said Monday, though he questioned whether that was enough.
“We’re constantly watching, OK, we know we’m going up, but are we going up at the speed we should be, especially considering the number of cases we have?” Said Murphy.
New virus variants are clearly one of the driving forces behind the increase, said Dr. Kirsten Bibbins-Domingo, Chair of the Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics at the University of California, San Francisco. Failure to suppress the increase in cases will lead to more people becoming ill and dying, she said, increasing the increase in other parts of the country.
“More vaccine needs to be where the virus is,” Bibbins-Domingo said, adding that people should get over the “scarcity mindset” that makes them think dropping the vaccine into one place will hurt people elsewhere.
In Florida, relaxed security measures during a busy spring season likely helped spread virus variants, University of South Florida epidemiologist Jason Salemi said. The state’s seven-day average of daily new infections has exceeded 5,400, an increase of 20% in the last two weeks.
While many new infections appear to be among younger people, Salemi said he is concerned about Florida seniors. About 78% of residents aged 65 and over have received at least one vaccine dose, but approx. 1 million more have still not been shot.
“We apparently have the supply,” Salemi said. “Are these people not planning to be vaccinated?”
Talk of sending extra shots to some states comes at a time when the number of daily infections in the United States has dropped dramatically compared to an increase in January after the holiday season. However, the seven-day average of daily infections has risen slowly since mid-March.
The five states that see the most infections stand out. As of Tuesday, 31 U.S. states reported a seven-day average of fewer than 1,000 new daily cases.
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. This distribution will bring the United States to a total of more than 90 million doses spread over the past three weeks.
The news came when Biden announced that more than 150 million shots of coronavirus have been administered since he took office and that all adults will be eligible to receive a vaccine by April 19th.
About 40% of American adults have now received at least one COVID-19 shot, 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 take a step back and go slowly. Even just a few more weeks, where Americans stick to social distance and other precautions, could make a huge difference.
“The 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 get there. Slow and stable. ”
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