States & Counties Loosen Restrictions
By Kenna Camper
As vaccination eligibility has opened up to all adults in the U.S., states have also started to lift COVID-related restrictions. As of March 15, According to the CDC, 34% of the U.S. population is fully vaccinated, and 45% have received at least one dose. However, vaccination trends across states and counties vary, along with the extent to which states are rolling back mask mandates and capacity restrictions. Given such differences, how do vaccination trends, case numbers, and pandemic restrictions compare across the country?
Maine, New Jersey, Connecticut, South Dakota, Vermont, and New Mexico have the highest percentages of vaccinated populations, with 39–43% fully vaccinated. States including Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, and Wyoming have some of the lowest percentages, with around 24–28% being fully vaccinated.
Using the US COVID Atlas to view fully vaccinated rates at the county level, we see heterogeneity of rates across counties within the same state. Two clear examples of this are in Wyoming and Pennsylvania. The statewide percentage of fully vaccinated in Pennsylvania is 34.7%, and with 51.7% of the state having received at least one dose. However, vaccination rates in Forest (located in the northwest part of PA) , Lackawanna (northeastern PA), and Montour (east-central PA) counties are much higher than in the rest of the state, with 40–51% being fully vaccinated. Counties such as Fulton, McKean, and Potter have less than 22% who are fully vaccinated.
COVID cases & the impact of opening up
Since much of the elderly population is now vaccinated and nationwide COVID infection rates have dropped to their lowest levels since September, some states have loosened travel restrictions, mask mandates, and indoor capacity limits. Most states are open or plan to reopen by June if COVID infection and hospitalization rates fall. Regionally, many Midwestern and Southern states have no mask restrictions, while most East coast and West coast states have mandatory indoor mandates.
Maine, for example, no longer requires travelers to quarantine or show proof of a negative test (as of May 1st). Maine’s current limit for indoor gatherings is 50% capacity, and the state plans to increase this to 75% for indoor and 100% for outdoor gatherings by May 24th. While Maine has one of the highest percentages of vaccinations in the country, case rates have recently increased. The 7-day average for new cases has been around 304, and reportedly the majority of cases are due to outbreaks in young people. According to the Maine CDC, 64% of new cases from last week were found in unvaccinated people under 40.
California currently asks unvaccinated travelers to get tested before and after traveling into California and to self-quarantine. Travelers are to follow the CDPH travel advisory and are strongly encouraged to avoid non-essential travel if not fully vaccinated. The state also has counties assigned to tiers depending on COVID spread, which dictates restrictions for business operations. The current 7-day average is 3.7 cases per 100k population, which is a decrease since April. Among recent cases, there has been a reported infection rate of .01 in fully vaccinated individuals.
Every state has different levels of vaccinations, COVID cases, travel requirements, and COVID-related restrictions, but many new cases are tied to younger age groups. Given that older populations are mostly vaccinated, this suggests that cases are rising in unvaccinated individuals. Now, adults under the age of 64 make up 67% of the nation’s hospitalizations.
While vaccinations continue to roll out, new cases and breakouts continue to appear across states. As restrictions lift, please continue to follow CDC Guidelines (especially if you have not been fully vaccinated) to stop the spread of COVID: wear a mask, practice social distancing, wash your hands.
Explore vaccinations, cases, and more data uscovidatlas.org