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AdventHealth hospital in Orlando is seen on the day that hospital officials reported they were elevating to level red with a full ICU and more than 1,000 patients hospitalized with COVID-19. Photo: Paul Hennessy/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Coronavirus hospitalizations in the South are once again surging — in some cases to levels near or above their previous records.

Why it matters: Overwhelmed hospitals, especially paired with staffing shortages, cause whole communities to suffer.

By the numbers: More than 5,400 coronavirus patients were admitted to the hospital on average during the week of July 21-27, according to the CDC, a 46% increase over the week prior.

  • CDC Director Rochelle Walensky told Congress in a briefing yesterday that hospitalizations are at about the same level they were this time a year ago — well before we had a vaccine.

What's happening: State health officials say nearly all hospitalized coronavirus patients are unvaccinated.

  • States in the South and Midwest — including Louisiana, Texas, Florida and Missouri — make up more than half of the country's hospitalizations.

Florida has the largest outbreak in the country, and has the highest seven-day average of cases since the state's previous peak in January.

  • Less than 49% of the state's population is fully vaccinated, per HHS.
  • Some hospitals are swamped. AdventHealth in Central Florida, for example, announced Thursday that it has about 1,000 coronavirus patients hospitalized, the highest it's ever admitted at once.

Louisiana is experiencing hospitalization rates that it hasn’t seen since March 2020, Joseph Kanter, the state's health officer, said on a call with reporters on Thursday.

  • "We didn’t think this far into the pandemic that we would be right back here. It feels like we never left, unfortunately," he said.

What's next: Vaccination is the best way to reverse the alarming uptick in hospitalizations, several health officials told Axios.

  • Luckily, some hotspots are seeing a spike in vaccination appointments.

Go deeper

Updated 3 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

  1. Vaccines: Los Angeles County to require vaccination proof at indoor bars — France suspends 3,000 unvaccinated health workers without pay — Moderna suggests booster shots, citing clinical data.
  2. Health: 1 in 500 Americans has died — Cases are falling, but deaths are rising — Study: Gaps in data on Native Hawaiians, Pacific Islanders alarming amid COVID.
  3. Politics: Gottlieb says CDC hampered U.S. response — 26 states have limited state or local officials' public health powers — Axios-Ipsos poll: 60% of voters back Biden vaccine mandates.
  4. Education: Denver looks to students to close Latino vaccination gap — Federal judge temporarily blocks Iowa's ban on mask mandates in schools — Massachusetts activates National Guard to help with school transportation.
  5. Variant tracker: Where different strains are spreading.
Sep 15, 2021 - World

EU pledges 200 million vaccine doses to Africa, low-income nations

Photo: Patrick Meinhardt/AFP via Getty Images

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said Wednesday that the bloc would donate an additional 200 million coronavirus vaccine doses to Africa and low-income nations, AP reports.

Why it matters: The new donation, slated to be delivered by the middle of next year, comes as confirmed cases of the coronavirus have reached 225 million globally.

Sep 15, 2021 - Health

Pfizer says data suggests COVID vaccine boosters are warranted

A nurse administering a booster shot of Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine on Aug. 19 in Pasadena, Calif. Photo: Robyn Beck/AFP via Getty Images

Pfizer told the FDA Wednesday that data from its clinical trials suggests a third shot of its coronavirus vaccine may be necessary six months after the second dose because of waning efficacy.

Why it matters: The FDA's advisory committee on Friday is expected to review Pfizer's clinical trials and other supporting and conflicting data on coronavirus booster shots and make recommendations on whether more Americans 16 years and older should receive an extra dose.