(CNN) — With COVID-19 cases on the rise and vaccination rates on the decline, health experts say they are concerned about the next chapter of the pandemic, especially for younger Americans, who say they are feeling the impacts.
“We know that in our ICUs we are seeing younger people intubated who are very ill or are on the floor and very ill,” said Dr. Jeanne Marrazzo, professor of infectious diseases at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. “That should be a huge wake-up call.”
With one of the lowest vaccination rates in the country, Marrazzo said Alabama is “at the beginning of a wildfire” when it comes to the spread of Covid-19. And like many other healthcare professionals in states with low vaccination rates, he said he desperately hopes that the stories and data showing the impact of the virus will motivate younger people to get vaccinated.
Joint forecasts from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released Wednesday on the covid-19 project say deaths and hospitalizations are likely to increase over the next four weeks.
Meanwhile, vaccination rates, which health experts have emphasized as a key part of the plan to control the virus, are the lowest since January, averaging 516,441 doses administered each day last week, according to the Centers. for Disease Control and Prevention.
Nationally, 48.8% of people are fully vaccinated, but some states, such as Alabama with 33.9% and Arkansas with 35.5%, are particularly struggling to get a vaccination rate high enough to to slow or stop the spread of the virus, according to the CDC.
That’s especially heartbreaking, say two doctors, when patients decide too late they want the vaccine.
“What I really wish you could see is to look into the eyes of a young father or a man who knows that they may be small for this world because they did not get vaccinated, and the regret and the remorse on their face, and the fear.” said Dr. Michael Bolding of the Washington Arkansas Regional Medical Center in a video he made to plead with Arkansans to get vaccinated.
An Alabama doctor said one of the last things her patients do before being intubated for COVID-19 is beg her to vaccinate them, but she has to tell them it’s too late.
When those patients die and she talks to her family, they tell her they thought the virus was a hoax, Dr. Brytney Cobia of Grandview Medical Center said in a Facebook post. She said she tells them that the best way to honor your loved one is by getting vaccinated.
“I go back to my office, write his death note and say a little prayer that this loss will save more lives,” Cobia wrote, urging people to ask him questions about the vaccine. “It’s not too late, but one day it could be.”
Covid-19 has unvaccinated people ‘in its sights’, says an expert
Although health officials are concerned about the spread of the delta variant, which is more transmissible, experts such as Dr. Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health, said those vaccinated are well protected.
The same is not true, he said, for unvaccinated Americans.
“For those who are not vaccinated, this is turning into a targeted pandemic,” Collins told CNN’s Jim Acosta on Wednesday.
“We are in trouble, as the CDC projections have established, in the coming weeks, especially in those parts of the country where vaccination rates are low and the delta variant is widespread,” Collins said.
The United States averages 34,056 new cases of covid-19 every day, according to data from Johns Hopkins University, a 55% increase over last week. And some areas are doing even worse.
Los Angeles County reported 2,551 new coronavirus cases Wednesday, a 20-fold increase in a month, according to the Department of Public Health. Just a month ago, the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health reported 124 new cases.
The spread of covid-19 not only has consequences for those it directly infects, it also increases the risk of new variants forming, said Dr. Paul Offit, a member of the Food and Drug Administration’s vaccine advisory committee. from the United States, FDA.
“The virus will continue to reproduce, it will continue to cause suffering and hospitalization, and worse still, it will continue to have the opportunity to produce variants that are much more resistant to vaccine-induced immunity,” Offit said.
Vaccines are the most powerful tool, but mask policies can help
The risk of further spread and lack of vaccination has led some leaders to advocate for the return of mask policies.
Former US Chief Health Officer Dr. Jerome Adams said in an op-ed published in The Washington Post that the CDC “urgently needs to revise its guidance on using face masks to combat the rapid growth of COVID-19 infections. driven by the delta variant “.
Vaccines are the most powerful tool to fight the virus, he said, but rates remain too low and “with many communities, particularly those of color, at risk of another devastating wave of cases, hospitalizations and deaths, masks are the next best tool officials have in places where vaccination levels remain low despite COVID cases increasing rapidly. “
A study published Wednesday in JAMA Network Open found that protective measures, such as masks, hand washing and physical distance, help protect against the spread.
Among more than 500 essential workers who continued to work at Colorado State University in Fort Collins during the first six months of the pandemic, none tested positive for COVID-19 in the months studied.
In places like New Orleans, leaders have once again advised residents to wear masks indoors when with people outside their immediate home.
Meanwhile, Texas Governor Greg Abbott said he will not implement another mask mandate. He told CNN affiliate KPRC, who believes that sufficient immunity has been acquired through vaccinations or exposure that it would be inappropriate to force people who are already immune to wear a mask.
According to CDC data, 43.1% of the Texas population is fully vaccinated. CDC advises that people should be vaccinated regardless of whether they have had COVID-19 and many doctors believe that the immunity you get from vaccination is probably stronger than the immunity you get from a previous infection.
– CNN’s Naomi Thomas, Deidre McPhillips, Lauren Mascarenhas, Sarah Moon, Ben Tinker & Jacqueline Howard, and Kay Jones contributed to this report.