Story at a glance
- A new analysis suggests roughly 15 states are experiencing increases in new COVID-19 cases.
- Improved vaccination rates may buoy a false sense of security.
As states begin to relax restrictions imposed earlier during the COVID-19 pandemic, emboldened by improved vaccine circulation and distribution and waning new cases, experts warn this could reverse the progress the country has made so far.
Looking at a data analysis conducted by ABC News, several states, including Alaska, Connecticut, Delaware, Idaho, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Oregon and West Virginia, are experiencing increases in new infections by at least 10 percent.
The analysis was derived from data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Some of the aforementioned saw increases in new case numbers by 25 percent over last week.
Confidence inspired by increased vaccinations could be one driving force behind these jumps in new infections, as well as recent revocations of mask mandates and restrictions on indoor gatherings.
In Maryland, Gov. Larry Hogan (R) moved limits on indoor dining capacities to 50 percent. In Texas and Wyoming, state leaders have elected to relax face mask mandates.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) announced on March 2 that all Texas businesses are open for in-person service, and the statewide mask mandate was eliminated.
Other leaders have kept mask mandates in place, but offered upcoming expiration dates. In Alabama, Gov. Kay Ivey (R) extended the statewide mask mandate to April 9. However, she herself will still wear one out of caution.
“Let me be abundantly clear, after April the 9th, I will not keep the mask order in effect,” she said. “Even when we lift the mask order, I will continue to wear my mask and strongly urge my fellow citizens to use common sense and do the same thing. But at that time, it will become a matter of personal responsibility and not a government mandate.”
The numbers justifying these decisions are deceptive; although more than 116 million vaccinations have been administered, per the CDC, this represents just 12.3 percent of the population having been fully vaccinated.
Ultimately, a premature reopening could result in a resurgence akin to previous seasonal outbreaks.
"The combination of rapid reopening, increasing mobility and spread of new COVID variants is likely driving the upward trend in cases in many parts of the country," John Brownstein, the chief innovation officer at Boston Children's Hospital, told reporters. "While we should feel optimistic with the vaccine rollout, the new surge, even if short-lived, will likely result in avoidable hospitalizations and deaths."