With waning COVID-19 vaccination rates and a rise in cases due to the Delta Variant, the inevitable has also happened—the number of deaths due to COVID-19 is also on the rise in the United States. With the pandemic proving once again that it is, in fact, not over, many are starting to wonder who is most at risk with this new wave.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, new cases are on the rise with a current seven-day average of 26,300 cases, which is a 70% increase over the average from just one week ago, In addition, the average for hospitalizations is now at 2,790, up about 36% from a week prior. Now, deaths have also gone on the rise.

“After weeks of declines, seven-day average daily deaths have increased by 26% to 211 per day,” Dr. Rochelle Walensky said during a press briefing.

This is the first time the death rate has increased in several weeks after the United States as a whole started seeing lower case rates and deaths as vaccinations rolled out. However, with the rate of vaccinations dwindling down and the Delta Variant now in all 50 states and ripping through unvaccinated areas, the pandemic is once again threatening to take hold of the country.

According to CNBC, four states accounted for more than 40% of all new cases in the last week, with one in five occurring in Florida alone. The highest case rates have been in Arkansas, Florida, Louisiana, Missouri and Nevada, all states with lower vaccination rates. While they’ve started to pick up on rates of new vaccinations in recent days, information from the New York Times shows the five states are still lagging behind others—with all five showing less than 60% of their populations fully vaccinated and less than 70% who have received a single dose. By comparison, the five states with the highest vaccination rates—Vermont, Hawaii, Massachusetts, Connecticut and Maine—all sit with full vaccination rates over 60% and residents receiving one dose are either over 80% or near that mark.

Still, with cases on the rise in nearly all 50 states, fears that the pandemic will once again rip through the nation like the original COVID-19 virus did have led to the re-institution of mitigation measures in certain areas. In Los Angeles County, where prior waves of infections and deaths wreaked havoc, mask use indoors has been reinstated—regardless of vaccination status.

The concerns lie mainly within those who are immunocompromised—whom the CDC warns may not have protection from vaccines—and those who are unvaccinated. 99% of new cases and deaths have been in those that are unvaccinated, and medical officials warn that those who continue to remain so are at higher risk than ever before.

“If you are unvaccinated, the risk is incredibly high—and maybe in some areas higher than it’s ever been because there are not mask mandates, people are enjoying this wonderful return of summer and are a little more carefree and lackadaisical and making it more possible that you could be exposed,” Dr. Craig Spencer, director of global health in emergency medicine at Columbia University Medical Center told CNN.

Businesses argue that people will be less exposed in shops and restaurants because of protocols such as mandatory mask-wearing Businesses argue that people will be less exposed in shops and restaurants because of protocols such as mandatory mask-wearing Photo: AFP / Pau BARRENA