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Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Coronavirus cases are on the rise again in several states, partially a result of variants of the virus becoming more widespread, experts say.

Why it matters: Even though a remarkable 72% of Americans 65 and older have received at least one dose of the vaccine, millions of Americans — particularly younger Americans with underlying conditions — remain vulnerable.

Driving the news: Coronavirus cases are rapidly rising in places including Michigan, New York, New Jersey and other northeastern states.

  • In Michigan, the number of hospitalized younger adults has dramatically increased this month. Coronavirus hospitalizations increased by 633% for those aged 30–39 and by 800% for those aged 40–49, the Detroit Free Press reports.
  • The variant that originated in the U.K., which is partially driving the new surge, appears to be more transmissible and deadlier.
  • "We know [it's] a race between vaccinations & variants," tweeted Ashish Jha, dean of the Brown University School of Public Health. "Well, despite phenomenal vaccination rates, variants pulled ahead this week."

The big picture: “There are certainly many people who are not vaccinated who are still at severe risk themselves because of underlying medical issues," said Leana Wen, a visiting professor at the Milken Institute School of Public Health at the George Washington University.

  • Because of vaccination demographics and who's at highest risk of exposure, "the proportion of people who are hospitalized and who will die will likely skew toward a younger subset," she said.

Between the lines: Those still vulnerable to the virus are disproportionately people of color.

  • That's because prioritizing people for vaccines based on age disproportionately benefits white Americans, who tend to be older than people of color.
  • But younger people of color tend to be at higher risk of severe infections because of underlying conditions. People of color also tend to be at higher risk of being exposed to the virus at work.

What they're saying: Some experts are calling for more vaccines to be sent to states experiencing a spike in cases.

  • "As older Americans are vaccinated, we're seeing declining hospitalizations in that group," former FDA commissioner Scott Gottlieb tweeted. "To address areas of outbreak, we should allocate more of the increased vaccine supply coming into the market to places where penetration is low and infection rates high, like metro Detroit."

Go deeper

Mar 29, 2021 - Axios Des Moines

GOP vaccine hesitancy is a big obstacle for Iowa's herd immunity

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

Republicans, especially men, are among the most reluctant to receive a COVID vaccine, Iowa and national polls show.

Why it matters: That runs counter to the dominant narrative that minority groups are the most hesitant, as explored last week in a New York Times podcast.

Caitlin Owens, author of Vitals
Mar 29, 2021 - Health

The quest to create vaccine passports

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The Biden administration is working alongside private companies to create "vaccine passports" that would allow Americans to prove they've been vaccinated against the coronavirus, the Washington Post reports.

Why it matters: Many companies have said they'll require proof of vaccination as part of reopening.

Mar 28, 2021 - Health

New Jersey parents sue school districts to force them to reopen

A student has their temperature taken while entering a New York City public high school in New York, U.S., on Monday, March 22, 2021. Photo: Angus Mordant/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Successful lawsuits waged by parents in three New Jersey school districts have prompted returns to some in-person classes, and invited interest from parents across the state seeking to do the same, the Wall Street Journal reports.

Why it matters: Parents in 30 districts in New Jersey have sought guidance from the plaintiffs in the original suits on how to organize similar efforts, illustrating the frustration of parents who feel virtual schooling has left their children "anxious, lonely and losing their zest for learning" the Journal writes.