The United States hit a six-month high for new COVID-19 cases with more than 100,000 infections reported on Wednesday (Aug 4), according to a Reuters tally, as the Delta variant ravages areas where people did not get vaccinated.
The country is reporting more than 94,819 cases on a seven-day average, a five-fold increase in less than a month, Reuters data through Wednesday showed. The seven-day average provides the most accurate picture of how fast cases are rising since some states only report infections once a week or only on weekdays.
In the coming weeks, cases could double to 200,000 per day due to the highly contagious Delta variant, said top US infectious disease expert Dr Anthony Fauci on Wednesday.
“If another one comes along that has an equally high capability of transmitting but also is much more severe, then we could really be in trouble,” Fauci said in an interview with McClatchy. “People who are not getting vaccinated mistakenly think it’s only about them. But it isn’t. It’s about everybody else, also.”
The Delta variant, first detected in India, accounts for 83 per cent of all new cases reported in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Vaccination rates vary widely from a high of 76 per cent of Vermont residents receiving a first dose to a low of 40 per cent in Mississippi, with polls showing Republicans are far less likely than Democrats to get vaccinated.
Unvaccinated people represent nearly 97 per cent of severe cases, according to the White House COVID-19 Response Team.
Deaths, a lagging indicator, jumped 33 per cent over the past week, with about 377 deaths per day on average, according to the analysis.
Southern states, which have some of the nation’s lowest vaccination rates, are reporting the most COVID-19 cases and hospitalisations. Florida, Texas and Louisiana were reporting the highest total number of new cases in the region over the last week, according to a Reuters analysis.
Florida, which has emerged as the nationwide hotbed of new infections, set yet another grim hospitalisation record on Thursday with 12,373 confirmed COVID-19 patients in its hospitals, according to data from the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).
More children are hospitalised with the virus in Florida than in any other US state, HHS data shows.
“23 per cent of new COVID hospitalisations in the US are in Florida, and their hospitals are being overwhelmed again,” White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said on Wednesday. Psaki urged the state’s governor, Republican Ron DeSantis, to “join us in this fight” after DeSantis accused Biden of singling out his state.
Louisiana and Arkansas are also grappling with record or near-record numbers of coronavirus patients occupying beds, according to a Reuters tally.
President Joe Biden on Tuesday urged Republican leaders in Florida and Texas – home to roughly a third of all new US COVID-19 cases – to follow public health guidelines on the pandemic or “get out of the way”.
To try to halt the spread of the virus, New York City will require proof of vaccination at restaurants, gyms and other businesses.
Some private companies are also mandating vaccines for employees and customers.
The US Food and Drug Administration plans to give full approval for the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine by early September, the New York Times reported on Tuesday, which could prompt more Americans to get the vaccine as it might reduce their fears about the safety of the shot.