Guardian News and Media/ Washington
The US is “at another pivotal moment in this pandemic” as rising Covid-19 cases show no signs of abating, driven by the Delta variant, and some hospitals are filling up, especially in areas with low vaccination rates, government officials warned.
The US government has not changed its guidance on mask wearing, despite debates going on in the White House and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) about whether those who have been vaccinated should once again be officially advised to wear masks indoors to prevent the spread.
Rochelle Walensky, director of the CDC, said that the Delta variant of coronavirus “is now spreading with incredible efficiency” in the US and that, compared with the original coronavirus strain that broke out in the US in early 2020, this variant is “more aggressive”.
“It is one of the most infectious respiratory viruses we know of and that I have seen in my 20-year career,” she said at a White House briefing, noting that the US is “not out of the woods”.
Walensky warned: “We are at another pivotal moment in this pandemic, with cases rising again and some hospitals reaching their capacity in some areas.”
The US is far from the dire situation before the vaccines were widely available, when repeated surges of infections in 2020 drove the US death toll in the pandemic above 600,000, the highest in the world.
But officials are becoming concerned as new cases have continued to rise fast in the last two weeks and vaccination rates are stuck stubbornly just below Joe Biden’s July 4 goal of 70% of American adults having had at least one shot.
The Delta variant now accounts for more than 83% of new coronavirus cases in the US.
Dr Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and the chief medical adviser to the president, said there are some areas of the country where Delta accounts for more than 90% of new infections.
“And if you look at the recent seven-day or 14-day averages of cases, for example, the cases are up by, like, 195%. The hospitalisations are up 46%. And the 14-day average for deaths are up 42% … it’s not the direction we want it to be,” Fauci told NPR News, adding: “We’ve got to do much better.”
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