COVID-19 cases and deaths have now returned to levels not seen since last winter’s surge, driven by the delta variant and vaccine hesitancy in many pockets of the U.S. In Arizona, on Wednesday, September 15, there were 2,432 new cases reported and 29 new deaths reported related to COVID-19.
Dr. Marjorie Bessel, Chief Medical Officer of Banner Health, addressed the rates as seen in Arizona during a press conference on Wednesday:
While we are pleased to no longer see exponential growth in our markets, I will point out that this is a very high plateau. The duration has extended for much longer than we saw in prior surges, when cases peaked and then quickly descended. I will also remind you that Banner’s forecasting tools predicted a lengthy plateau followed by a continued increase of hospitalizations next month.
On Sunday, September 12, the Arizona Department of Services COVID-19 data dashboard reported 2,765 new COVID-19 cases but also that more than 2,100 hospital inpatient beds were in use by COVID patients, in addition to over 550 intensive care unit (ICU) beds. According to KJZZ, this was the 12th straight day for the hospital surge.
Across the country rates are fluctuating, leading to an overall increase in cases nationwide. While Florida and Louisiana are seeing improvements similar to Arizona, infection rates in Kentucky, Georgia and Tennessee are soaring due to high levels of unvaccinated individuals, according to the Associated Press. Intensive care units are over capacity in Texas.
An article from Nashville Public Radio illuminates the day-to-day experiences in Tennessee ICUs, as hospitals there set new records every day. Most critical patients are unvaccinated, according to Tennessee hospital officials.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), vaccinated Americans were ten times less likely to be hospitalized and 11 times less likely to die than unvaccinated people. According to Forbes, the CDC studied over 600,000 COVID-19 infections across 13 U.S. cities and states from April to July and found only 8% of cases were from hospitalized patients.
In a post on the Director’s Blog, the Arizona Department of Health Services (ADHS) said it participated in the study that demonstrated that vaccines remain highly effective.
These findings are consistent with other recent studies showing decreased vaccine protection against confirmed COVID-19 infection, when the Delta variant has predominated and immunity from the vaccine may be waning in the population. But they also suggest that vaccines continue to offer stable, strong protection against hospitalization and death.
According to the Health System Tracker (HST) from Peterson and Kaiser Family Foundation, COVID-19 hospitalizations due to unvaccinated patients has cost the healthcare system billions of dollars since the current surge began. HST found that there were 32,000 preventable COVID-19 hospitalizations in June, 68,000 preventable hospitalizations in July and 187,000 in August.