Covid cases are starting to increase across America, especially in highly vaccinated pockets of the Northeast, but the increasing numbers have not yet translated into more deaths, as the relatively mild BA.2 ‘stealth’ variant continues to snuff out other strains of the virus.
Rhode Island is the most vaccinated state in America, with 82 percent of the population fully vaccinated. The state has also experienced the largest case growth over the past two weeks, up 102 percent over the last 14 days. It has the second highest infection rate among U.S. states as well, with 34 of every 100,000 residents testing positive daily.
The only state with a higher infection rate is Vermont, which is recording 37 daily cases per every 100,000 residents, a 66 percent jump over two weeks. Vermont is the second most vaccinated state in America, with 81 percent of residents having been inoculated.
Both states are recording less than one death per day from the virus, though, a sign of both the effectiveness of the vaccine – and how much the threat of Covid during this period of Omicron-dominance has receded.
Many other nearby states, like New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts and Pennsylvania, are in similar situations, where increasing case rates have not translated into a spike in deaths.
Nationwide, cases have jumped 24 percent over the past week, to 42,105 per day. It is the first time daily figures eclipsed 40,000 per day since March 7. Deaths are still plummeting, though, down 11 percent to 511 per day.
Covid cases are rising in 32 U.S. states as of Friday morning. The rises come after a months-long period of declines, though, so no state is in a crisis situation yet – as almost all were when the Omicron variant took over the world around the new year.
In New York, often the first place that experiences large Covid surges, cases are up 73 percent over the past two weeks. New York City in particular has recorded a 54 percent jump in cases over the past 14 days as well.
Officials in the state also announced the detection of two new sub-variants of the BA.2 stealth variant, BA.2.12 and BA.2.12.1.
The two strains are believed to have a 23 and 27 percent growth advantage over the original version of BA.2, though there is no evidence that suggests they are more severe.
The ‘stealth’ variant, is the most infectious version of the virus discovered yet, but is just as mild as its predecessor, the BA.1 Omicron strain.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that it makes up 86 percent of sequenced cases in the U.S., with BA.1 making up the remainder.
Non-Omicron forms of the virus, like the Delta variant, have been almost entirely wiped out by the more infectious, yet more more, version of Covid.
The strain that has rapidly circulated across the Northeast region, the CDC reports, being more prevalent there than anywhere else in America.
Pennsylvania (82 percent jump in cases; 68 percent vaccination rate), New Hampshire (93 percent; 70 percent), New Jersey (81 percent; 75 percent).
Many experts predicted this exact situation, where cases begin to slightly rise as a result of the stealth variant, but fail to ever cause a surge of deaths or do enough damage to cause a crisis in the U.S.
‘I don’t think this is going to be another major wave of infection, but we’re probably going to go up from here before we see a decline,’ Dr Scott Gottlieb, former director of the Food and Drug Administration and current board member at Pfizer, told CNBC’s Squawk Box last month.
‘The bottom line is we’ll likely see an uptick in cases, as we’ve seen in the European countries, particularly the U.K.,’ Dr Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, said last month.
Despite the generally positive outlook about the pandemic in these states, some officials are starting to bring back pandemic-related orders.
Officials in Philadelphia have brought back the city’s mask mandate for all indoor public places, including schools, after a recent increase in Covid cases.
‘Philadelphia’s COVID-19 response levels allow us to be clear, transparent and predictable in our response to local conditions,’ Jim Kenney, mayor of Philadelphia, said in a tweet.
‘Given the rise in cases, we’re moving to Level 2 on April 18 to prevent higher case rates.’
Officials point to benchmarks set being the reason for masks coming back, as the recent uptick in cases has caused the city to once again reach thresholds that require indoor masking.
The city is currently averaging 201 cases per day – or 13 for every 100,000 residents – a 116 percent jump over the past two weeks.
Some universities like Columbia University, in New York City, American University, Georgetown, George Washington and Johns Hopkins, in the D.C. area, have brought back masks on campus as well amid rising cases.