Although overall rates of U.S. COVID-19 hospitalizations and deaths are down, the outlook may not remain as encouraging. “I hope I’m wrong about this, but I anticipate that the coming fall and winter will bring increasingly localized versions of similar findings – severe disease and death due to SARS-CoV-2 infection in regions or groups with lower vaccination rates,” Dr. Ray said.
There could be a silver lining, he added: “If this unfortunate surge occurs, the health and economic consequences seem likely to erode much of the remaining hesitancy regarding vaccination.”
The rise of more infectious SARS-CoV-2 variants, such as the Delta variant, could also throw a wrench in controlling COVID-19. “This isn’t just a domestic issue,” Dr. Ray said. “We have learned that the world is a small place in pandemic times.”
The Associated Press investigators state that their findings support the high efficacy of the vaccine. Also, given the current widespread availability of COVID-19 vaccines in the United States, they believe many of the COVID-19 deaths now occurring are preventable.
Public health measures should have continued longer to protect unvaccinated individuals, especially Black Americans, Hispanic Americans, and other minorities, Dr. Palli said. “Only time will tell if re-opening and abandoning all public health measures by the CDC was premature.”
A version of this article first appeared on.