CNN  — 

With the recent increase of Covid-19 infections and hospitalizations due to the spread of the highly transmissible Delta variant, health experts and officials expect the surge to worsen as long as large segments of the country remain unvaccinated.

“We will see this big, steep acceleration,” Dr. Peter Hotez, co-director for the Center for Vaccine Development at Texas Children’s Hospital, told CNN’s Anderson Cooper on Friday. “As bad as things are right now in the South, they are about to get worse for lots of unvaccinated individuals.”

Officials in Southern states, where vaccination rates have generally lagged other parts of the country, are working to get the message out.

In Georgia, the case rate has more than tripled over the last 14-day period, the state health department announced Friday as it urged residents to get vaccinated since the Delta variant is more transmissible than earlier Covid-19 strains.

“Unfortunately, we can expect Covid numbers to keep growing. People who are unvaccinated or skip their second dose of vaccine are targets for infection,” said Georgia health commissioner Dr. Kathleen E. Toomey.

Nurses at a treatment tent outside the emergency department at Holmes Regional Medical Center in Melbourne, Florida, which serves as an overflow area for those with Covid-19 infections.

More Americans may be responding to the crisis, as recent data from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows the pace of vaccinations is going up – especially in states where vaccinatio