However, experts warn that small surges could appear in states with low vaccination rates next fall. Although the role of vaccines in influencing the decline in community transmission is significant, other potential factors also come into play.
“I think the falling cases are in part due to increasing vaccinations, but not exclusively,” Dr. Angela Rasmussen, a virologist at the Georgetown Center for Global Health Science and Security, told ABC News. “Other factors will be community-dependent, and will depend on both policies and restrictions in place to reduce transmission, as well as the behavior of people within those communities.”
Pockets of local concern
Although state case and vaccination trends can provide a general understanding of how a state is doing, it may mask local variations, with pockets of low vaccine uptake leading to increased coronavirus cases, despite a state’s overall high volume of inoculations.
Testing for the virus has also declined significantly in recent months, leaving the possibility that states are missing potential infections. The U.S. is currently averaging just over 1 million tests a day — down by the nearly 2 million tests a day the country was conducting in January.
Slowing vaccination rates “will really depend again on immunization at the community level,” explained Rasmussen.
For example, with 44% of its population fully vaccinated, Maine currently leads the country along with Connecticut for the highest percentage of its total population that is fully vaccinated. However, with 42% of its population still unvaccinated, Maine has recently seen a surge in hospitalizations, particularly among younger, unvaccinated populations.
Although cases are still lower than they were a month ago, Maine is still averaging about 300 cases a day. On Saturday, 47% of the state’s new cases were among residents under the age of 30.
In Oregon, daily cases have increased by 44% over the last month, despite the fact that 48% of residents are now vaccinated with at least one coronavirus vaccine dose. And in Hawaii, nearly 59% of the state’s total population has received at least one dose, however, in the last two weeks, cases have increased by approximately 12%.
Rising cases in these states may be due to a number of factors, including the effect of more contagious virus variants on largely younger, unvaccinated populations.
GOTV: Get out the vaccine
In order to keep case rates falling, experts say it will be critical for vaccinations efforts to reach unprotected individuals.
“In the states with a lower vaccination rate there is a greater risk that variants continue to emerge, evolve,” said Weintraub. Therefore, it will be crucial to accelerate access to the vaccines. “Our work ahead, similar to getting out the vote — we need local campaigns to answer questions and help sign up the vaccinated.”
Many states are now refocusing their efforts to bring vaccines to their residents, using mobile vaccination vans to reach more rural or other traditionally underserved communities, door-to-door canvassing, and community education to address hesitancy.
“The most successful states have used a wide variety of techniques… This is not something that will be solved through a single strategy. It takes targeted outreach to communities,” Dr. Megan Ranney, an emergency room physician and professor at Brown University.
The White House continues its push to get 70% of all U.S. adults inoculated with at least one shot by July 4. To date, nearly 59% of U.S. adults have received their first dose.
On Tuesday, President Joe Biden announced that anyone in need of a ride to get their COVID-19 vaccine would be able to get a free trip through ride-sharing companies Lyft and Uber for the next two months.
“We have reached the people who really wanted the vaccines already. Now it is a matter of the ground game to reach the people who would be interested, but won’t go out of their way… every vaccine in an arm makes a difference,” Ranney concluded.