Even if the United States meets President Joe Biden’s COVID-19 vaccination goal for first doses by Jul 4, now just a month away, at least 30 states will not hit the 70% mark among their own adult residents. One-dose vaccine coverage hit 63% this week.
And vaccination isn’t important for just adults. A Mortality & Morbidity Weekly Report (MMWR) study today found that teenage hospitalization rates for COVID-19 have risen from mid-March to April.
Overall, the United States reported 18,991 new COVID-19 cases and 601 deaths yesterday, according to the Johns Hopkins COVID-19 tracker, and the Washington Post says the 7-day average of daily new cases has fallen by 30%.
Continuing vaccine push for adults, teens
An analysis yesterday by the New York Times found that, at the country’s current pace, 68% of adults will have received at least one COVID-19 vaccine dose by Jul 4, 2 percentage points below Biden’s goal. On Jun 2, the country was at 63%.
The matter is further complicated because at least 30 states will not reach that goal, with some not even achieving it by the end of the year, according to data trajectories. States in the Deep South and the Mountain West had stagnating rates from limited access and vaccine hesitancy, but even in states with good coverage, the analysts note disparities.
“I think the question is whether we’re getting to a place where we’ve just leveled out, and we’re just not going to get that many more people,” Marcus Plescia, MD, MPH, chief medical officer for the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials, told the Times. “Or whether in a lot of these states it will take longer for people to get vaccinated, and we will continue to make progress, but it will be slow progress. … I just don’t know how that will play out.”
In an interview with CNN published today, Francis Collins, MD, PhD, the director of the National Institutes of Health, said, “I worry about the ones that are way below that [70% level], and they are sitting ducks for the next outbreak of COVID-19—which shouldn’t have to happen now.”
While adolescents do not count toward Biden’s vaccination goal, today’s MMWR report highlights the importance of teen vaccination, said Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Director Rochelle Walensky, MD, MPH, in a CDC statement.
The report showed that teen hospitalizations for COVID-19 peaked in early January with 2.1 hospitalizations per 100,000 teens, declined to an incidence rate of 0.6 in mid-March, but started climbing back up to 1.3 in April. Although no deaths occurred, nearly one in three teens were admitted to intensive care units, and 5% required invasive mechanical ventilation.
“Much of this suffering can be prevented,” Walensky said, adding that unvaccinated teens should continue COVID-19 precautions such as mask use when around others who are not fully vaccinated. “I ask parents, relatives, and close friends to join me and talk with teens about the importance of these prevention strategies and to encourage them to get vaccinated.”
The CDC COVID Data Tracker shows that 368,375,195 COVID-19 doses have been delivered in the United States, with 297,720,928 administered. Compared with last week, about 3.9 million more Americans are fully vaccinated for a total of 136,644,618.
Pandemic effects on misery, traffic deaths
In a “pandemic misery” index released this week, 80% of respondents experienced hardships in the past year, according to USA Today. The USC Dornsife Center for Economic and Social Research’s index consisted of nine factors, including financial insecurity, food insecurity, psychological distress, perceived COVID-19 infection or diagnosis, and isolation and quarantine.
Black and Latino people reported even higher rates of hardships, with at least 85% in both racial groups experiencing at least one, compared with 80% of Asian people and 76% of White people. They were also more likely to know someone who died from COVID-19.
Traffic deaths also rose by 7% in 2020, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration—despite the 13% drop in national mileage due to the pandemic. NPR says the agency attributes the increase to riskier driving on less-congested roads, such as speeding, lack of seat belt usage, or driving under the influence.
Preliminary estimates found 38,689 deaths, the most of any year since 2007, with increases in motorcyclist deaths (9%), bicyclist deaths (5%), and deaths of people in passenger vehicles (5%). Pedestrian deaths were comparable to 2019, and deaths involving a large truck or those among people 65 years or older dropped by 2% and 9%, respectively.
Jobs and masks for workers
In rosier news, US employers added 559,000 jobs last month, with 52.2% of them coming from the leisure and hospitality industry, according to the Wall Street Journal. This dropped the unemployment rate from 6.1% in April to 5.8% in May.
The Journal notes that some development economists say the labor force will not recover completely until “well into next year” and that the country is also seeing a record high of job openings. Possible factors for the lag are health concerns, childcare needs, and the ongoing supplemental unemployment benefits.
Even so, state and local governments and businesses across the country are gearing up to open fully for business again. Today, the California Occupational Safety and Health Standards Board ruled that workers are allowed to go maskless only if every other employee in the room is fully vaccinated against COVID-19, according to the Associated Press.
The measure was passed unanimously by the seven-person board, but it has not been met without criticism, in part because of its incongruence with CDC guidelines.