The United States is experiencing a surge of new COVID-19 infections thanks to a combination of the more infectious delta strain of the coronavirus and low vaccination rates in several states.
Among the dozens of states that are reporting a steady increase in new COVID-19 infections is the midwestern state of Missouri, which has one of the lowest vaccination rates in the nation. About 45% of all Missourians have received at least one shot of a COVID-19 vaccine, far behind the national average of at least 55%. The situation is far worse in the state’s rural areas, where fewer than 25% of residents have been inoculated.
Officials in St. Louis County say the rate of new coronavirus cases have soared 63% in the last two weeks.
The worsening situation in Missouri prompted the Biden administration to deploy a “surge response team” made up of experts from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other health agencies to help local officials with testing and vaccination efforts.
The surge of new coronavirus infections have been blamed on a general distrust of vaccines along with rising political opposition in some states.
In the southeastern state of Tennessee, Dr. Michelle Fiscus, the director of the state government’s vaccine-preventable diseases and immunization programs, said she was fired this week amid a backlash from conservative state lawmakers over her efforts to raise awareness among teenagers and young Tennesseans about the COVId-19 vaccines.
Fiscus said a memo she wrote suggesting some teenagers might be eligible for vaccinations without their parents’ consent triggered her dismissal.