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'History Repeating Itself': Delta Variant Behind Increase In COVID-19 Cases Nationwide

BOSTON (CBS) – For the first time since the spring, the CDC is now predicting an increase in COVID hospitalizations across the country. Even here in Massachusetts, doctors say our work is not done; more young people still need to get the vaccine.

On Wednesday, the state reported 208 new cases. One week ago, 61 new cases were reported.

"In some cases I think this is a little bit of history repeating itself," said Dr. Mark Siedner, an infectious disease clinician at Mass General Hospital.

After a period of improvement in Massachusetts, local COVID cases are slowly starting to tick up again. Test positivity rates are on the rise, and even hospitalizations slightly.

COVID cases map

"What we're seeing is an extremely aggressive variant - the delta variant - which is probably 50% more contagious, more severe, potentially even more severe in younger people, doing its best to return us to yesteryear," Siedner said.

But what's different from yesteryear is the wide availability of vaccines. Sixty percent of people in Massachusetts are fully vaccinated - and that has saved many, many lives.

"They're excellent vaccines," Siedner said. "They're not 100% effective at preventing infections. They seem almost that effective though at preventing hospitalizations and deaths."

Across the country, more than 40 states are reporting an increase in daily COVID cases. It's fueled by a spread among younger unvaccinated Americans. In Mississippi, which has the lowest vaccination rate in the country, seven children are now hospitalized with COVID, two of them on ventilators.

"This is a mix of kids with underlying conditions and then some that were previously healthy," said Dr. Jennifer Bryan of the Mississippi State Medical Association.

Experts are still reminding healthy, young adults that getting vaccinated isn't just about you. It protects people you love, and strangers who may not enjoy the benefit of good health.

"As long as there are people who are unvaccinated and as long as these variants continue to emerge that are more severe, we are going to see outbreaks like this continue to occur," Siedner said.

According to the CDC more than 95% of nationwide COVID deaths in June were in unvaccinated people.

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