The United States is now averaging 100,000 new COVID-19 infections per day, returning to a milestone last seen during the winter surge as health officials urge people to get vaccinated to stem a surging spread of the Delta variant.
Across the country, 70.6 percent of adults have received at least one dose of vaccines, while 60.9 percent are considered fully inoculated, according to US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) data.
But millions remain unvaccinated and a surge in infections has been recorded in states with low vaccination rates, such as Florida and Texas.
“Our models show that if we don’t [vaccinate people], we could be up to several hundred thousand cases a day, similar to our surge in early January,” CDC Director Rochelle Walensky told CNN.
It took the US about nine months to cross the 100,000 average case number in November before peaking at about 250,000 in early January. Cases bottomed out in June, averaging about 11,000 per day, but six weeks later the number is 107,143.
Hospitalisations and deaths are also increasing rapidly, though all are still below peaks seen early this year before vaccines became widely available across the country.
Dr Anthony Fauci, the country’s top infectious disease expert and the White House’s chief medical adviser, said last week that “more pain and suffering” lay ahead – and once more called on Americans to get jabs, calling the rise in infections “an outbreak of the unvaccinated”.
“Things are going to get worse if you look at the acceleration of the number of cases, the seven-day average has gone up substantially,” Fauci said on August 1, explaining that some 100 million people who are eligible for COVID-19 jabs have not been inoculated.
This past week, Florida broke its own record for daily COVID-19 hospitalisations, and the state makes up more than 20 percent of the nation’s new cases and hospitalisations, triple its share of the population.
Republican Governor Ron DeSantis, who is running for re-election and eyeing a 2024 Republican presidential bid, has said he will not impose statewide mask mandates or other measures to stem the spread of the virus.
He and US President Joe Biden have verbally sparred in recent days, with DeSantis accusing Biden of wanting to steal Floridians’ “freedoms” and Biden urging DeSantis to “get out of the way” of local officials if he does not want to fight the outbreak.
Florida, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee and Kentucky represent 41 percent of new hospitalisations in the US, the CDC says, twice their overall share of the population.