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These 6 states are leading US vaccination rates

Popular Science logo Popular Science 3/16/2021 Erin Fennessy
a group of people walking on a city street: Masks are still necessary, though it will become safer and safer to take them off. © Provided by Popular Science Masks are still necessary, though it will become safer and safer to take them off.

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We are now more than a year into the COVID-19 pandemic, which officially began on March 11, 2020, when the World Health Organization declared the viral outbreak a global event. It’s also been well over a year since the WHO announced on January 5, 2020 that there was a mysterious virus emerging in Wuhan, China. Since then, more than half a million Americans have died from the virus. Although we understand far more about SARS-CoV-2 now, there’s still a lot left for us to figure out.

a group of people walking on a city street: Masks are still necessary, though it will become safer and safer to take them off. © Unsplash Masks are still necessary, though it will become safer and safer to take them off.

Though a fair amount of us are experiencing pandemic fatigue and a handful of vaccines to prevent the infection are in use, it’s still crucial that we maintain our awareness of the severity of this crisis. Here’s a quick overview of the essential stats and figures:

Current US vaccination numbers

The daily average number of vaccine doses has accelerated to 2.4 million per day over the last week, according to a Reuters analysis. 21 percent of the US population has now received at least one dose as of Sunday, up from 18 percent a week earlier. 11 percent have gotten both vaccine doses (for the two-dose regimens), a two-point increase from last week. All told, more than 71 million Americans have received one dose and more than 38 million have received two.

These are the top five states for percentage of population with at least one dose:

  1. New Mexico at 29.3 percent
  2. Alaska at 28.1 percent
  3. South Dakota at 27.6 percent
  4. Connecticut at 26.7 percent
  5. North Dakota and Maine, both at 26.1 percent

Every state has passed or is fast approaching the 10 percent threshold for full vaccination, with Alaska leading the way at 18.1 percent and Utah bringing up the rear at 8.3 percent.

Latest US COVID-19 case counts

The United States has now reported more than 29.5 million cases in total, and 57,083 were reported just in the last day. We’re currently on the decline from our third—and by far largest—peak so far. We’ve been in a steady and marked decline for the past eight weeks. While that’s a wholly positive sign, the variants that are now circulating across the country have public health experts concerned these new strains could undo the work that’s been done to bring down case counts.

The downturn has also lost some of its momentum in the past four weeks. It’s possible that the apparent fall in case numbers is partially due to plummeting testing rates nationwide, making case counts artificially low as less people get tested for the virus. For these reasons, it’s crucial that we maintain the precautions that produced this decline— namely social distancing and mask wearing, along with getting vaccinated when you can.

Coronavirus stats around the world

Going by total case counts, the current top 10 countries for COVID-19 are:

  1. US
  2. Brazil
  3. India
  4. Russia
  5. UK
  6. France
  7. Italy
  8. Spain
  9. Turkey
  10. Germany

But what these countries generally have in common is large populations. The list of total cases per 100,000 people tells a very different story (not counting countries with fewer than 100,000 people):

  1. Montenegro
  2. Czech Republic
  3. Slovenia
  4. Luxembourg
  5. Israel
  6. US
  7. Bahrain
  8. Panama
  9. Aruba
  10. Portugal

The US is the only country on both lists, which is a testament to how poorly we’ve handled the pandemic, especially early on. Every other nation with a lot of case counts generally has it by virtue of having a large population.

Israel remains on this list despite having the highest vaccination rate of any country, but recent data shows that the vaccine is working. A combination of the British variant of COVID sweeping the nation, along with a lockdown-weary population returning to normal life, has caused a massive uptick. Case numbers are gradually decreasing as the vaccination effort continues.

[Related: Why COVID cases are falling around the world]

The most recent COVID-19 hotspots in the US

Over the past four months, most US states experienced their largest wave of cases since the pandemic began a year ago. The good news is that every state seems to have surmounted the wave and new cases are now generally on the decline. Scientists aren’t sure why we’re seeing such a dramatic downturn nationwide, but speculate that it could be a combination of mask-wearing, social distancing, and the promise of vaccines and a better spring ahead. While none of the states are currently peaking or plateauing, cases still remain higher than at any point last spring or summer in most regions of the country.

The coronavirus death toll and hospitalization rate

At least 535,227 Americans have now died from COVID-19.

In the last week, there has been an average of 55,153 cases per day, which is an 18 percent decrease compared to the average cases per day two weeks ago. Deaths are also down 32 percent in the same period.

Even as the overall caseload in America continues to trend downward, the number of cases remains higher than at any other point in the past year. While vaccines offer a light at the end of the tunnel, including Johnson & Johnson’s newly authorized single dose, COVID-19 is essentially everywhere at this point and the effect of new variants remains to be seen. It’s just as important now as it was at the start of the pandemic to remain vigilant.


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