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Keeping Your Community Safe as COVID Hospitalizations Rise

Despite the fact that more than 50% of Americans are fully vaccinated against COVID-19, that figure falls short of most estimates for what is needed for herd immunity, which typically range from 70-90% vaccination. With the number of COVID hospitalizations rising sharply in many areas across the country it is important to answer key questions surrounding the topic, such as:.

  • What are possible factors leading to the recent increase in COVID hospitalizations?
  • Which states have seen the largest increase in COVID hospitalizations?
  • What steps can my community take to prevent new COVID hospitalizations?
  • How can my community work to stay safe from COVID-19?

Factors Leading to Recent COVID Hospitalizations

The rise of COVID hospitalizations is not only a concern for those being hospitalized, but also for its effect on hospital systems around the country. With limited hospital beds, resources, and medical staff available, many hospitals are being strained and facing difficult decisions around administering medical care. 

Some states are facing ICU bed deficits, such as Alabama, at 103% ICU capacity as of September 10, 2021.

Idaho, at 90% ICU capacity as of September 10, 2021, has activated “crisis standards of care”, which means some patients may receive inadequate treatment because of shortages.

In order to fight this critical issue and work to relieve pressure from hospitals, it is important to understand what has led to this rise in COVID hospitalizations.

Delta Variant

According to the CDC, the Delta variant is more contagious than previous COVID-19 variants, which allows it to spread more easily among individuals. 

“In a completely unmitigated environment—where no one is vaccinated or wearing masks—it’s estimated that the average person infected with the original coronavirus strain will infect 2.5 other people,” says F. Perry Wilson, MD, a Yale Medicine epidemiologist. “In the same environment, Delta would spread from one person to maybe 3.5 or 4 other people.”

According to the CDC, some data suggests the Delta variant is more likely to cause serious illness in unvaccinated individuals, which could lead to a higher number of COVID hospitalizations.

Vaccine Hesitancy

COVID-19 vaccines are now available to all adults and minors aged 12 and older. However, despite nationwide vaccine availability, certain demographics have been hesitant to get a COVID-19 vaccine. Among adults, CDC data shows that individuals aged 18-24 are least likely to get a COVID-19 vaccine among those who are hesitant.

A Nature study explored the complexities of COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy across different demographics and found that the speed of vaccine development was a top reason for hesitancy.

A July 2021 CDC report shows unvaccinated individuals are 29 times more likely to be hospitalized than vaccinated individuals.

From this report, the CDC states that “…authorized vaccines protect against SARS-CoV-2 infection and severe COVID-19, even with increased community transmission of the newly predominant Delta variant.”

Click here to view the full report.

States Hit Hardest with New COVID Hospitalizations

The Washington Post provides detailed maps  showing the number of hospitalizations as well as the number of vaccinated individuals by state. The data shows that COVID hospitalizations are most prevalent in states that lag behind in the total number of vaccinated individuals. In particular, southern and Appalachian states have been hit hardest by recent COVID hospitalizations.

To view COVID-19 data for your county, click here. To view nationwide COVID hospitalization data, click here

How Communities Can Help Prevent COVID Hospitalizations

Stay Updated on Accurate Vaccine Information

According to the CDC, COVID-19 vaccines are safe and effective. It is still possible to get sick with COVID-19 even after becoming fully vaccinated because no vaccine is 100% at preventing an illness and breakthrough infections can occur. However, according to the CDC, there is evidence that vaccines help reduce severity of COVID-19 symptoms in those who do get sick.

The CDC also states that COVID-19 vaccines can help prevent transmission of the virus, which can potentially lead to a lower number of COVID hospitalizations in a community.

Get Ready for Booster Shot Availability

Nearly one million Americans have already received their first COVID-19 booster shots.

The CDC’s current guidance for booster shots is for those that have received the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine and include the following groups:

  • People aged 65 years and older
  • Residents aged 18 years and older in long-term care settings
  • People aged 50–64 years with underlying medical conditions

Click here to read more from the CDC on COVID-19 booster shots, which includes frequently updated information on the types of individuals who should get booster shots at this time. Click here to read a joint statement from HHS public health and medical experts regarding the overall rollout of COVID-19 booster shots.

Understand CDC Guidelines on Preventing Transmission

According to the CDC, it is still possible to become infected with and spread COVID-19 even if an individual is fully vaccinated. This type of infection is called a breakthrough infection.

According to the CDC, breakthrough infections tend to be milder than infections in unvaccinated individuals, which may lead to less severe symptoms and a lower chance of hospitalization or death.

Since everyone can potentially spread COVID-19 regardless of vaccination status, make sure both vaccinated and unvaccinated community members are up to date on common COVID-19 symptoms and what to do if you are sick to reduce the risk of COVID-19 spreading in your community.

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