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These 5 States to Have Next Outbreak, Virus Expert Warns 

Check if your state could be a new COVID hotspot.
FACT CHECKED BY Emilia Paluszek

Massive COVID outbreaks in the Southern Sun Belt have been dominating the headlines: States like Florida, Mississippi and Tennessee are leading the nation in new cases and hospitalizations. But several other states are dangerously bubbling under. "We're now seeing noteworthy rises in some Western states and continued increases in Midwest cases," said Dr. Michael Osterholm, an epidemiologist and director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota, on the latest episode of his podcast. Read on to find out about the new potential hotspots—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You Have "Long" COVID and May Not Even Know It.


South Dakota

South Dakota Welcome sign

According to New York Times data, COVID cases in the state have surged 352%—and hospitalizations 141%—in the last 14 days. That's the highest rate of increase in the nation, more than double that of the No. 2 state, West Virginia. It comes almost a week after the conclusion of the 10-day Sturgis Motorcycle Rally, which attracted over 500,000 attendees, many mingling in crowded bars unmasked. Last year's rally was called a "super-spreader event."

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Portland, Oregon at night

"Hospitalizations in Oregon are at an all-time high," noted Osterholm. "The National Guard has actually been called in to support the needed care for patients." Indeed, the Associated Press reported Monday night that hospitals in the state "are stretched to the breaking point": COVID hospitalizations are up 50% over the previous record, set last year before vaccines were available. Most hospitalized people are unvaccinated. "This is really a dire situation," said Jeff Absalon, chief physician executive for St. Charles Health System. More than 90% of hospital beds and ICU wards are full. 

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Osterholm noted that Washington state's caseload was trending similarly to Oregon. COVID transmissions and hospitalizations are at an all-time high in the state. According to data gathered by the New York Times, the daily average of hospitalizations is up 53% in the last 14 days. CNBC reported that among people ages 16 to 64, the unvaccinated are 10 times more likely to be hospitalized than people who are vaccinated. "If the entire population were to experience the rates of hospitalizations currently seen in the unvaccinated, the hospital system would be completely overwhelmed," the state health department said.

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North Dakota

Bismarck, North Dakota

According to New York Times data, COVID cases in North Dakota have risen 128% in the last 14 days and hospitalizations are up 85%. The Bismarck Tribune reported Monday night that state health officials were urging residents to seek vaccinations before the surge seen in Southern states swings northward. "Now is the time to get vaccinated before Delta is here. We have the benefit of learning from our friends down South, and now is the opportunity to get vaccinated," said Molly Howell, the state's immunization program manager, on Monday. 



Chicago, Illinois, USA downtown skyline from Lincoln Park at twilight.

On Friday, daily COVID cases in Illinois hit their highest level in seven months (4,094), the Chicago Sun-Times reported. The average daily caseload is eight times higher than it was in early July. "We are living in a very dangerous moment of coronavirus and upswing of the Delta variant across the nation and here in Illinois," said Gov. J.B. Pritzker. ICU beds were 95% full in the southern part of the state, where only 20% of residents, on average, are vaccinated.

No matter where you live—get vaccinated ASAP; if you live in an area with low vaccination rates, wear an N95 face mask, don't travel, social distance, avoid large crowds, don't go indoors with people you're not sheltering with (especially in bars), practice good hand hygiene, and to protect your life and the lives of others, don't visit any of these 35 Places You're Most Likely to Catch COVID.

Alek Korab
Alek Korab is a Co-Founder and Managing Editor of the ETNT Health channel on Eat This, Not That! Read more about Alek