experts do not foresee a good winter

(CNN) – The coronavirus numbers did not paint well this week. New covid-19 diagnoses increased in about half of US states in the last week. Hospitalizations increased in 11 states and deaths have increased in 17 states.

Coronavirus cases in the US have stagnated in recent weeks, maintaining about half the growth of the last wave this summer.

While new cases have decreased in some states, they are on the rise in others, particularly in some regions of the cold-weather states.

The southern states that were a big driving force behind this summer’s surge now have some of the lowest case rates. Two months ago, Florida and Texas together accounted for nearly a quarter (22%) of all new cases. Now those two big states account for just 6% of all diagnoses.

Florida cut new cases to a tenth of what they were two months ago and Texas to a fifth.

That should sound like good news, but with less dramatic declines in other less populated states, and slight increases in some others, particularly in the Northeast and mountain regions, the overall US figures remain flat overall.

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It’s confusing and the numbers could send a vague message to people. However, they do not send a mixed message to epidemiologists, who do not foresee a good winter for the United States or the world.

Too many people remain unvaccinated and many continue to defy and even fight the advice to wear masks when indoors with other people. This dangerous combination could mean more spikes, even if not as high as in the recent past, and in areas beyond those that are currently seeing an increase in cases.

“I don’t know what’s going to happen in the next few weeks. But I have a feeling it won’t be pleasant,” Michael Osterholm, who heads the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota, told CNN.

“Today is a really sad day,” epidemiologist Ali Mokdad, who has been tracking the coronavirus pandemic since the beginning at the University of Washington, told CNN. “Cases are increasing. It was going down. We are at a time when the United States has all the tools we need to prevent a surge, all the tools we need to save lives. We have the best vaccines and we have a lot of them,” he said .

“And people are not willing to get vaccinated.”

The false sense of security

Mokdad said states like Florida have a false sense of security.

“Florida has a large population of old people, who went and got vaccinated. And the young people just got infected. So the virus ran out of people to infect,” he said.

But he said the immunity of both groups is waning. “There will be a lot of winter trips to Florida,” he said. “The infections will start again,” he predicted. “We are so interconnected.”

Diagnoses and hospitalizations are on the rise in Michigan, with hospitalizations increasing 20% ​​in the last week, according to state data.

“The Detroit metro area is once again becoming a hotspot,” Dr. Nick Gilpin, director of infection prevention and epidemiology at Beaumont Health, a health system in the United States, told a news conference Thursday. southeastern Michigan.

“I have a feeling that we will be in this world for the next few months because I don’t see how much can change this unless people start to radically change their behavior. This could be a matter of four or five months,” Gilpin added.

Like Mokdad, Gilpin blames the unvaccinated and the refusal to wear masks. It is hitting hospitals and clinics hard, he noted.

“I mean, it’s brutal. Nobody wants to see these Covid-19 patients at this point. But we are wearing masks and trying to help people get better,” Gilpin said.

“That said, there probably isn’t a hospital in the state that isn’t dealing with a shortage of staff. It’s tough, especially when we see a fourth increase that could last through the winter. This increase is shaping up more like a marathon than a sprint.” .

What does the US ask of people trying to enter the country? 4:43

Millions Still Unvaccinated May Drive New Surges

In Colorado, where cases increased 30% last week, according to data from Johns Hopkins University, Governor Jared Polis declared that the entire state was at high risk of transmission or exposure to COVID-19 and signed a decree saying that all people over the age of 18 were eligible for a booster dose of the vaccine.

“We want to make sure that Coloradans have all the tools they need to protect themselves from this deadly virus and help reduce stress in our hospitals and healthcare workers. All Coloradans are now eligible to receive the booster so that they can protect themselves and their families, “Polis said in a statement.

Mokdad approves. “Science tells us that we need three doses to be immune,” he said. “We are losing our credibility as scientists unless you say so, we need three doses to be protected.”

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have approved booster doses for most of the adults in the US, and the FDA is considering extending the authorization for booster doses of Pfizer’s vaccine to all adults.

Osterholm thinks boosting people will help, but says it’s much more important to vaccinate more people first.

“If we see rallies in Los Angeles or New York City, we could easily find ourselves back to where we were. At this point, there is no evidence of that happening,” he said on his podcast this week.

“But I must tell you that given the vaccination rates … we could surely see big increases in both metropolitan areas where, with the population density being what it is, we could really increase the number of national cases in a short time,” he added.

An estimated 60 million Americans remain unvaccinated. There are many people who can help drive new surges, Osterholm said.

“Overall, there is still a lot of human wood left for this coronavirus forest fire to burn,” he said.

Even in states, cities, and counties with high vaccination rates, there are enough unvaccinated or under-vaccinated people to help keep the virus from spreading. And if immunity is waning as fast as some studies indicate it can be, Osterholm fears more infections, even among those vaccinated.

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What could happen this winter?

Osterholm is pessimistic about the next few weeks. “That fact, combined with delta, schools, and the upcoming holidays, has me skeptical that we won’t see any new hot spots emerging in this country over the next several weeks and months. So where do I see it going? I think we’ll continue to see sudden increases. They may not be as high as what we just had, but they will happen. “

And they won’t be restricted to current hotspots, Mokdad predicted. Holidays will make sure of that. “People are moving like there is no covid-19,” he said. “We are going to see Americans traveling, Thanksgiving and then through the New Year. We are going to see an increase, and that increase is going to be very bad.”

The AAA forecasts that Thanksgiving travel will rebound to levels close to before the pandemic, and 53.4 million Americans are expected to travel for the holidays, a 13% increase from last year.

And many states have vaccination levels so low that they are bonfires waiting to be lit, Mokdad said.

“I mean, West Virginia [está] 41.1% completely vaccinated. Therefore, 60% of the population, at least, do not have immunity against infections, “he said.

“So what are you waiting for? We’re going to have an increase. If you look at Montana, 51%. Wyoming, 44.6%. I mean, you could go on and on. There are so many states right now below 50. Louisiana, 48 , 1%. Alabama, 45.2% “.

These same states, Mokdad and Osterholm noted, also have populations that are largely resistant to the use of masks.

“No one is listening,” Mokdad said grumpily. He said he and other epidemiologists were discussing how to draw attention to the dire situation.

“Some of us were talking about going on a hunger strike. We are really frustrated. It is depressing that we know how to protect our population and we are not doing it,” he said.

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CNN’s Alexander Harring and Jennifer Henderson contributed to this story.

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