COVID-19 cases and deaths are surging again in the United States as the highly transmissible Delta variant is taking hold and vaccination efforts are stagnating in the country.
As of Tuesday evening, the United States has seen more than 609,000 deaths and 34 million cases, according to data from Johns Hopkins University (JHU). The country is averaging more than 32,000 new cases per day, a 66-percent jump from the previous week, and 145 percent higher than the rate from two weeks ago, CNN reported, citing data from the JHU.
An average of some 260 Americans died from COVID-19 each day this past week, up 13 percent from the rate of daily deaths over the previous week. Currently, about 25,000 people are hospitalized with COVID-19, according to data from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, a 26-percent increase from last week and a 50-percent increase from two weeks ago. The surge is largely driven by outbreaks in parts of the United States with low vaccination rates, as the Delta variant is spreading rapidly across the country.
Rochelle Walensky, director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), said Tuesday that Delta accounts for more than 83 percent of COVID-19 cases in the United States. Meanwhile, the pace of vaccination in the United States has dropped sharply in the past few months. Twelve states have yet to vaccinate 40 percent of their population, CDC data showed. About 48.6 percent of the U.S. population is fully vaccinated against COVID-19, and 56.1 percent has received at least one shot as of Monday, it showed. More than 97 percent of people getting hospitalized with COVID-19 now are unvaccinated, Walensky said. About 99.5 percent of deaths are among the unvaccinated, said U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy on Sunday. Getting people vaccinated as quickly as possible “is our fastest, most effective way out of this pandemic,” Murthy said.
Deaths are up in places where people are refusing vaccination, and a new poll from global public opinion and data company YouGov sheds some light on the reasons why: Ninety percent of those who responded to the poll worried about possible side effects from the vaccines. Less than one in ten of those who rejected vaccination trust medical advice from Anthony Fauci, the country’s top epidemiologist. “Those under 12 are included in the unvaccinated, so those are individuals who medical experts have not cleared for vaccination. The rest are people who fear vaccinations, don’t trust the science, or have been persuaded by misinformation agents that the vaccine is dangerous to them,” Darrell West, senior fellow from the Brookings Institution, told Xinhua.
A Washington Post-ABC News poll released earlier this month found 47 percent of Republican respondents saying they were unlikely to get vaccinated, compared with 6 percent of Democrats. Among Republicans, 38 percent said they definitely would not get the shots. White House health officials blasted social media platforms Sunday, for what they said was a failure to prevent what they termed “misinformation” about the vaccines. Murthy said misinformation surrounding the vaccines is “spreading like wildfire” and social media platforms are helping the spread. Cary Coleman, in her late 30s, who works as a consultant in DC, told Xinhua that throughout the pandemic, people have either been paranoid hypochondriacs or overly cavalier about wearing masks and social distancing. “People need to be more moderate,” she said. May Williams, a manager outside DC in her 40s, told Xinhua she does not understand why anyone would not want to get the vaccines, as she herself did two months ago. “It’s free. Why not?” she said.
U.S. stocks took a nose dive on Monday amid worries over whether a rebound in COVID-19 cases would stymie economic growth worldwide. The Dow Jones Industrial Average sank more than 700 points in Wall Street’s worst day since October. The NASDAQ also dropped by 1.1 percent. U.S. President Joe Biden urged Americans on Monday to get vaccinated against the virus, saying that the economy is entirely dependent on getting the pandemic under control. “So please, please get vaccinated. Get vaccinated now,” said Biden. The president has failed to achieve his goal of administering at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine to 70 percent of U.S. adults by July 4.
Recent days and weeks have seen an increase in U.S. experts calling for vaccinated individuals to go back to wearing masks amid the growing Delta threat. In a recent Tweet, former U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams said data suggested that the CDC should advise mask wearing “in areas with (rising) cases and positivity until we see numbers going back down again.”
U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen on Friday said the country could see the return of government-mandated capacity restrictions on businesses, such as bars and restaurants. Speaking on CNBC, Yellen said: “We have solid rates of vaccination in many parts of the country … But certainly, it’s something that could happen in areas where vaccination rates are low.”
Last year’s business capacity restrictions led to millions of job losses and the worst economic dip since the Great Depression nearly 100 years ago. Given the abundance of lawsuits of small businesses against state and local governments, many observers did not believe that the United States will ever return to the capacity restrictions on bars, restaurants and other small businesses seen during the pandemic.