Nearly half of new coronavirus infections nationwide are in just five states — a situation that is putting pressure on the federal government to consider changing how it distributes vaccines by sending more doses to hot spots.
New York, Michigan, Florida, Pennsylvania and New Jersey together reported 44% of the nation's new COVID-19 infections, or nearly 197,500 new cases, in the latest available seven-day period, according to state health agency data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. Total U.S. infections during the same week numbered more than 452,000.
The heavy concentration of new cases in states that account for 22% of the U.S. population has prompted some experts and elected officials to call for President Joe Biden’s administration to ship additional vaccine doses to those places. So far, the White House has shown no signs of shifting from its policy of dividing vaccine doses among states based on population.
Sending extra doses to places where infection numbers are climbing makes sense, said Dr. Elvin H. Geng, a professor in infectious diseases at Washington University. But it’s also complicated. States that are more successfully controlling the virus might see less vaccine as a result.
“You wouldn’t want to make those folks wait because they were doing better,” Geng said. “On the other hand, it only makes sense to send vaccines to where the cases are rising.”
The spike in cases has been especially pronounced in Michigan, where the seven-day average of daily new infections reached 6,719 cases Sunday — more than double what it was two weeks earlier. Only New York reported higher case numbers. And California and Texas, which have vastly larger populations than Michigan, are reporting less than half its number of daily infections.
Though Michigan has seen the highest rate of new infections in the past two weeks, Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has said she does not plan to tighten restrictions. She has blamed the virus surge on pandemic fatigue, which has people moving about more, as well as more contagious variants.
“Taking steps back wasn’t going to fix the issue,” Whitmer said as she got her first vaccine Tuesday at Ford Field in Detroit, home of the NFL’s Lions. “What we have to do is really put our foot down on the pedal on vaccines" and urge people to wear masks, keep their social distance and wash their hands.