Fortunately, Pfizer is just about ready to roll out its new COVID pill, because case numbers are rising rapidly in the northeastern US, a part of the country that was previously overlooked because of high vaccination rates and relatively low COVID numbers. But now, emergency rooms across the region, which includes much of the Empire State, as well as the six states that comprise New England, are overflowing, while infection rates soar.
CDC data clearly shows the spike in hospitalizations.
Source: CDC, Bloomberg
Admissions involving patients with COVID climbed 14.4% across the US in the week ended Dec. 9, according to the US Department of Health and Human Services. In New England, the rate was more than double - 33.5%.
This latest surge is happening in what is perhaps the most vaccinated area of the US. In Massachusetts, where 88% of the population has had at least one dose of the vaccine, the state is planning to send out more than 2MM rapid antigen tests to the poorest communities, according to Gov. Charlie Munger.
Just a few days ago, New York Gov. Kathy Hochul ordered masks to be worn inside all businesses in the state, largely because cases and hospitalizations have been climbing upstate and in Western New York.
Since Thanksgiving, New York State’s seven-day average case rate has increased 43% and hospitalizations have increased 29%. The percentage of vaccinated Americans has increased about 2 percentage points in the same period - clearly not fast enough to curb the spread of the virus.
Meanwhile, NYC is going a step further than most cities and municipalities by imposing a vaccine mandate on private-sector workers starting Dec. 27.
As far as hospitalizations go, Maine, New Hampshire and New York have all activated the National Guard to help hospitals treat COVID patients. New Hampshire, which has the highest 7-day case rate of any state in the US, also is sending residents free at-home rapid COVID tests. Within a day of the Nov. 29 offer to send tests to any resident, all 800K tests were taken. Another round was pledged, but none have been delivered.
Moving south toward the mid-Atlantic region, we have the Garden State, which is seeing a similar trend of rising hospitalizations. In New Jersey, where hospitalizations are at the highest since the end of April, most of the new cases are among the unvaccinated, but the state is seeing more infections among those who have had two doses of the vaccine and are experiencing waning immunity, according to Gov. Phil Murphy, who urged residents to get their boosters.
In New Jersey and the other states, hospitals are cutting back on elective procedures and other less-urgent health-care procedures to allocate more resources to fighting COVID.
And this is all before the omicron variant - which is supposedly better at evading the protections afforded by vaccines - has even arrived.