Upper Midwest Covid-19 Surge May Signal Problems Ahead for U.S.

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Gov. Tim Walz welcomed people lining up for vaccinations in Eagan, Minn., last month.
Credit…Pool photo by John Autey

As states lift restrictions and worrisome coronavirus variants spread, scientists and federal health officials have been warning that a new wave of cases could arise in the United States even as the nation’s vaccination campaign gathers speed. The seeds of such a surge may now be sprouting in the Upper Midwest and the Northeast.

Michigan is already in tough shape. New cases and hospitalizations there have more than doubled in the last two weeks. The six metro areas in the United States with the greatest number of new cases relative to their population are all in Michigan.

Several other states in the Upper Midwest, including Minnesota and Illinois, have also reported significant increases in new cases and hospitalizations. And in the Northeast, New York and New Jersey have continued to see elevated case counts.

While new cases, hospitalizations and deaths nationwide have declined from their peaks in January, new infections have increased after plateauing.

Further progress in reducing new cases has stalled, hospitalizations have leveled off, and deaths remain near an average of about 800 a day, according to a New York Times database. The average number of new cases has reached nearly 65,000 a day, as of Tuesday, up 19 percent from two weeks ago.

Scientists are particularly concerned about the rising prevalence of variants, which they say could draw out the pandemic. On Wednesday, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said a highly infectious variant that was first identified in Britain has now become the most common source of new infections in the United States.

That variant, B.1.1.7, has been found to be most prevalent in Michigan, Florida, Colorado, California, Minnesota and Massachusetts, according to the C.D.C. Until recently, the variant’s rise was somewhat camouflaged by falling rates of…