While the virus wave driven by the Delta variant is declining in much of the United States, many counties in the northernmost regions of the country see rising cases as colder weather arrives.
The five states with the highest daily new cases per capita are led by Alaska, which, according to a New York Times database, has the highest daily average: 125 cases per 100,000 people. The next four states with at least 67 cases per 100,000 people are Montana, Wyoming, North Dakota, and Idaho.
The cases in these states are at least trending downward or remaining stable. The five states with the fastest growing case numbers are Vermont, Colorado, New Hampshire, Michigan, and Minnesota, and the two counties with the highest number of cases per capita in Vermont and New Hampshire are on the Canadian border.
The virus followed a similar pattern last fall: in the southern regions, cases decreased after the summer waves, while across the north they steadily increased as the weather got colder and people moved inside.
The big difference this year is that Covid-19 vaccines are widespread and most experts don’t expect another catastrophic winter wave, but they warn Americans not to let up as long as a large section of the population remains unvaccinated.
In Minnesota, the average reported cases have increased 12 percent in the past two weeks. Scott Smith, a spokesman for the Minnesota Department of Health, said in an email the department was more concerned about factors such as school reopenings and eased mitigation measures than winter weather.
Dr. Rafael Meza, a professor of epidemiology and at the University of Michigan, said there were gains in Michigan, but they appeared to be higher in the center and upper peninsula. Dr. Meza said factors like vaccination rates and school mask requirements could be part of the cause.
According to Dr. Natasha Bagdasarian, the state’s chief medical director, has seen many cases among Michigan’s school-age children, especially in non-masking districts.
“The weather drives people into poorly ventilated spaces, and when either academic or non-masked social activities take place in poorly ventilated spaces, transmission occurs,” said Dr. Bagdasarian, adding that winter is coming “very bad” time for us here in Michigan. “
Sydney further eased restrictions after the state of New South Wales achieved its goal of fully vaccinating 80 percent of the eligible population.
On Monday, thousands of children returned to school after months of home study and more than 100 days of lockdown. Up to 20 fully vaccinated people can gather in a private home, and there is no limit to the number of fully vaccinated people who can attend a funeral or wedding.
“Today is our first day after 80% life”, Dom Perrottet, the Prime Minister of New South Wales, tweeted on Monday. He added, “Do the right thing.”
The easing comes as Australia has moved away from trying to eradicate Covid-19 and instead aims to vaccinate as much of its population as possible.
The aim is to begin reopening fully once 80 percent of the national population is vaccinated. According to the New York Times, as of Monday, 56 percent of the country’s population was fully vaccinated and 72 percent were receiving a dose.
As part of that strategy, the city of Melbourne – which is part of most lockdown days worldwide – will suspend its home stay orders at 11:59 p.m. Thursday, when 70 percent of eligible adults are expected to be fully vaccinated.
“There will be no lockdown, no restrictions on leaving the house and no curfew,” Daniel Andrews, the prime minister of the state of Victoria, whose capital is Melbourne, told reporters on Sunday. “The Victorians sacrificed so much,” he added, later promising that the lockdown would be the city’s last.
New Zealand’s largest city, Auckland, will extend its lockdown, the toughest in the world, for another two weeks, making it an outlier in the Asia-Pacific region as nations seek to relax domestic restrictions and reconnect with the rest of the world connect to.
The city with around 1.7 million inhabitants has been closed since August 17th after an outbreak of the Delta variant. Around 50 new cases have been reported every day since the beginning of October. One death was reported on October 8, bringing the number to 28 since the pandemic.
The government has been put under pressure by some health experts to tighten the restrictions even further, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said at a press conference on Monday.
“A number of distinguished scientists and epidemiologists had suggested a return to Level 4,” she said, referring to the country’s highest restrictions. The government chose to keep current attitudes “because of the nature of the outbreak and the fact that compliance is an issue,” she said.
Northland, the region immediately north of Auckland, would come out of its 10-day lockdown just before midnight on Tuesday, Ms. Ardern said, while Waikato would continue to be subject to severe restrictions in the south of the city.
Although New Zealand is no longer aiming to completely eliminate the virus, Ms. Ardern said the country will not relax local restrictions until more people are vaccinated.
By Monday, 85 percent of the population 12 and older had received a first dose of a vaccine and 66 percent had received both doses. On Friday, the government will announce a formal vaccination target for the country, Ms. Ardern said.
New Zealand held a “Vaxathon” on Saturday in an attempt to break its national record of 93,000 vaccinations against the coronavirus in a single day. More than 130,000 people, or approximately 2.5 percent of the eligible population, received a dose of the Pfizer BioNTech vaccine that day, according to the Department of Health.