South at risk of virus surge this summer, experts warn 

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COVID-19 vaccination rates are lagging in many Southern states, which could put the region at risk for a virus surge this summer, experts told The New York Times.

In 15 U.S. states, including five in the South, half of adults or fewer have received one vaccine dose, according to a Times analysis. At the current rate of distribution, it would take Mississippi and Alabama about a year to vaccinate 70 percent of the population with at least one dose — the national goal President Joe Biden aims to reach by July 4. 

Public health experts and state health officials acknowledged that this figure is somewhat of an arbitrary measure, but did express concern that unvaccinated populations will be more susceptible to COVID-19 infections this summer.

The sense of urgency to get vaccinated falls as virus restrictions scale back, and many people in the South also congregate indoors during the summer months to avoid the heat, where the virus can spread easier, experts said. 

If a surge does occur, it likely won't be as severe as last summer's, since treatments have improved and a vaccine is now available.

"The surge is not likely to end up tying up hospitals and causing lots of deaths," Edward Trapido, an epidemiologist and associate dean for research at the Louisiana State University School of Public Health in New Orleans, told the Times.

"There are certain populations that are undervaccinated, and that’s where we will expect to see a rise," he said, noting that younger people are one such group at risk.

 

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