Virus surge hits New England despite high vaccination rates
A woman receives her COVID-19 vaccine in a clinic set up in Bethel AME Church, Rhode Island, U.S., September 24, 2021. /AP

A woman receives her COVID-19 vaccine in a clinic set up in Bethel AME Church, Rhode Island, U.S., September 24, 2021. /AP

Despite having the highest vaccination rates in the U.S., there are constant reminders for most New England states of just how vicious the Delta variant of COVID-19 is.

According to statistics from the Associated Press, the five U.S. states with the highest percentage of a fully vaccinated population are all in New England, with Vermont leading, followed by Connecticut, Maine, Rhode Island and Massachusetts. New Hampshire is the 10th. The full vaccination rates across the six states range from a high of 69.4 percent in Vermont to 61.5 percent in New Hampshire.

However, hospitals across the region are seeing full intensive care units and staff shortages are starting to affect care. Public officials are pleading with the unvaccinated to get the shots. Health care workers are coping with pent-up demand for other kinds of care that had been delayed by the pandemic.

"I think it's clearly frustrating for all of us," said Michael Pieciak, the commissioner of the Vermont Department of Financial Regulation who monitors COVID-19 statistics for the state. "We want kids to be safe in school, we want parents not to have to worry about their child's education and health."

Despite the relatively high vaccination rates – the U.S. as a whole is averaging 55.5 percent – there are still hundreds of thousands of people across the region who, for one reason or another, remain unvaccinated and vulnerable to infection.

Now, a Rhode Island official said he didn't think the 70 percent vaccination goal, once touted as the level that would help end the pandemic in the state, is enough.

"What we've learned with Delta and looking beyond Delta, is ... to give you that true population level protection, you need to be in excess of 90 percent," said Tom McCarthy, the executive director of the Rhode Island Department of Health COVID Response Unit.

Even though parts of New England are seeing record case counts, hospitalizations and deaths that rival pre-vaccine peaks, largely among the unvaccinated, the region hasn't seen the impact the Delta variant wave has wrought on other parts of the country.

Source(s): AP

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