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Health & Fit: These Two States Are Becoming the Worst COVID Hotspots in the U.S.

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The summer months have not been kind to the Gulf States when it comes to the coronavirus pandemic. Since June, Texas, Florida, and Louisiana have all seen some of the most drastic spikes so far, with infection rates and hospitalizations breaking records week after week. But two states in the region that've been largely overlooked are now showing signs of becoming the biggest new coronavirus hotspots in the U.S.: Alabama and Mississippi.

a view of a large body of water with a city in the background © Provided by Best Life

These two states are currently on track to take the least coveted spot in the fight against COVID-19, according to reporting from Vox. In terms of hospitalizations, Alabama is looking at a looming crisis, with 76 percent of ICU beds in the state currently occupied, according to Covid Act Now. The site also says Alabama's positive test rate is 20.6 percent and rising. (For reference, the widespread understanding is that that number needs to be at 5 percent or less to contain COVID-19.) Mississippi is unfortunately not faring much better, with its daily new cases doubling from 639 on July 1 to 1,178 on August 2. Mississippi's positive test rate is also dangerously high at 23.3 percent and rising, according to Covid Act Now.

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a close up of a map: map shows mississippi and alabama © Provided by Best Life map shows mississippi and alabama

While Alabama enacted a statewide mask mandate on July 15, Mississippi didn't do so until August 4. Two weeks after its mask mandate was implemented, Alabama posted its first dip below 1,000 daily cases in nearly a month. But neither state has closed bars or indoor dining.

Still, some experts are wondering if those mask mandates are too little, too late to prevent Alabama and Mississippi from becoming the next biggest coronavirus hotspots. "Both Alabama and Mississippi have an awful lot of counties that are predicted to be vulnerable on the basis of their population demographics. Whether age, race, or socioeconomic status, or some combination of all three," William Hanage, PhD, a Harvard epidemiologist, told Vox.

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What's most troubling to experts, however, is that despite sky-high infection rates, schools are still scheduled to open in both Alabama and Mississippi in the coming weeks. In a tweet on August 1, Ashish Jha, MD, director of the Harvard Global Health Institute (HGHI), warned that Mississippi shouldn't be reopening schools given its current status. Instead, he recommended that state officials use the "recipe known" to work on bringing down cases numbers, which involves stopping all indoor activities (such as at bars, restaurants, and gyms) and improving testing. And for areas that are handling the pandemic well, check out Dr. Fauci Says This One State Is "In a Good Place" With Coronavirus.


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