Despite a growing number of people getting vaccinated against COVID-19, most New England states are seeing a rise in coronavirus cases.
The rise in infections could be two-fold. Despite maintaining mask mandates, states across the region are relaxing their restrictions as more residents become eligible to receive the vaccine. Highly contagious variants of the virus also continue to circulate. One of the variants -- first identified in the U.K. -- likely accounts for up to 30% of COVID infections nationwide and could become the dominant circulating strain as early as April.
Vermont is currently the only New England state that is reporting a steady decline in cases. Nearly 32% of Vermonters over the age of 16 have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, according to the state's Department of Health.
Maine, which has the lowest case numbers compared to the other New England states, has seen a 50% increase in cases over the past month. Maine has accelerated its vaccine timeline -- opening appointments to ages 50 and older -- as slots began to go unfilled.
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Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker has said he is confident that he can get 4 million adults vaccinated by July 4. The state reported more than 1,800 new cases on Sunday.
Rhode Island has the highest number of coronavirus cases in New England. The City of Pawtucket, one of the hardest hit communities in the state, has now opened coronavirus vaccination eligibility to all residents ages 16 or older who live in the city.
Recent outbreaks reported at colleges across New England, at a youth wrestling tournament in New Hampshire and at a cheerleading facility in Weymouth have contributed to increased infections. Swampscott High School is also going fully remote for the next two weeks due to a large outbreak affecting about 100 students and parents.
New Hampshire is working to accelerate its vaccine rollout schedule, offering residents aged 50 and older the opportunity to make COVID-19 vaccination appointments on Monday. Gov. Chris Sununu has said the state is just "weeks away" from announcing that all New Hampshire adults will be eligible for the vaccine. The state surpassed 80,000 coronavirus cases over the weekend.
More than 541,000 people in the U.S. have now died of COVID-19.
As the weather gets nicer, health experts are urging the public to maintain the public health measures along with getting vaccinated.