With the delta variant of the Covid-19 virus driving an uptick in new cases in some parts of the U.S., health officials are warning about the dangers of delaying or avoiding vaccination.
“This is becoming a pandemic of the unvaccinated,” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Rochelle Walensky said Friday at a White House press briefing. “We are seeing outbreaks of cases in parts of the country that have low vaccination coverage, because unvaccinated people are at risk.”
The CDC reported more than 33,000 new cases on Thursday, and the seven-day average of 26,300 is 70% higher than the average in the previous seven-day period. Hospitalizations are up 36%, while deaths are up 26%.
But those hospitalizations and deaths are occurring almost entirely among unvaccinated people. “The good news is if you are fully vaccinated you are protected against severe COVID, hospitalization and death, and are even protected against the known variants, including the delta variant, circulating in this country,” Walensky said.
Big variations across states: States with high vaccination rates, such as Vermont and Massachusetts, where rates exceed 70%, are doing pretty well. But states where vaccination rates are lower, such as Arkansas, Missouri, Florida and Nevada, where rates are closer to 50%, are seeing significant increases in cases.
White House COVID-19 coordinator Jeff Zients emphasized the uneven geography of the latest surge. “Just four states accounted for more than 40 percent of all cases in the past week, with 1 in 5 of all cases occurring in Florida alone," Zients told reporters. Florida is currently reporting new cases at four times the national average.
Still a major risk: The latest surge in cases means that Covid remains the country’s leading health threat. “Even with half the U.S. vaccinated, Covid-19 continues to kill people faster than guns, car crashes and influenza combined, according to a review of mortality data,” Bloomberg’s Tom Randall wrote Friday.
And the problem is not just in the U.S. Earlier this week, World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus provided a reminder that the pandemic is global. “The delta variant is ripping around the world at a scorching pace, driving a spike in cases and deaths,” he said. “The pandemic is not over — anywhere.”