At one case per capita, every state in New England is now above the national average, with New Hampshire more than twice as high — 65.0 cases per 100,000 population — compared to the national average of 27.4 cases per 100,000 .
The increases come after a September peak in New England appeared to be easing. They arrive as the weather turns colder, national case numbers appear, and officials are calling on all adults to get boosters to bolster the waning immunity of their original shots.
“It was important now to move into the winter months, when respiratory viruses are spreading faster and with plans for more travel and gathering during the holiday season, improving people’s overall protection from the illness and death of COVID-19,” said Dr. . Rochelle Walensky, director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said in a White House briefing Monday.
Experts and officials hope that, because of New England’s high vaccination rates, the number of cases will not lead to the same number of hospitalizations and deaths as with previous COVID spikes.
dr. David B. Banach, a hospital epidemiologist at UConnHealth in Farmington, Connecticut, said cases are milder, especially among vaccinated people. “The number of hospital admissions has not increased at the same rate as the number of new cases. That provides good evidence that the vaccine works,” he said.
That’s why a COVID-19 case in November 2021 is viewed differently than a COVID-19 case in November 2020. “We don’t see serious infections increasing at the same rate,” Banach said.
Michael T. Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota, said no one knows why cases are rising in the Northeast.
“This is part of the mystery of the spikes we see with COVID-19, why they start and why they stop — we don’t know,” he said. “We do know that vaccination and mitigation can reduce the impact of the wave.”
“There’s less serious illness, fewer deaths,” he said. “At the same time, it points to the fact that this virus is still taking a very large toll on us.”
“The vast majority of us are done with this pandemic,” Osterholm said. “The problem is, we’re not done yet.”
Connecticut Governor Ned Lamont, citing a national map of new cases at a briefing Monday, said, “It’s kind of like a mirror image of where you were, say, 90 days ago, where the south — Florida and Georgia, Texas, Alabama – were on fire, and we had, you know, a very, very low infection Now, given the seasonality and the flu season as such, that’s shifted a little bit.
“We are much better prepared than a year ago, much better than we have been. We have the vaccine. We have the boosters. We have the masks. We’ll get through this, no doubt about it. Let’s make sure the next wave is the mildest of them all,” said Lamont, whose state currently has the highest increase in daily cases in the country. but still has the lowest per capita rate in New England, 20.7 cases per 100,000.
Officials have warned that unvaccinated people are at much greater risk. The CDC says that, according to data collected from about two dozen U.S. jurisdictions, unvaccinated people had 5.8 times the risk of contracting COVID-19 and 14 times the risk of dying from the disease.
“Infections among the unvaccinated continue to tragically drive this pandemic — hospitalizations and deaths — at a time when we have vaccines that can provide incredible protection,” Walensky said at the White House briefing.
Asked last week about the increase in Massachusetts cases, Governor Charlie Baker’s administration highlighted the successes of the state’s vaccination program. “Massachusetts leads the nation in vaccinating residents with 95% of all adults with one dose, and has one of the lowest COVID hospitalization rates in the country,” a spokeswoman for the Department of Health and Human Services said in a statement.