For several weeks, federal health officials have reported that Florida accounts for one in five new U.S. covid cases. The delta variant is driving breakthrough infections among the vaccinated, hospitalizations among the unvaccinated, and fears that the CDC may have acted too fast in May when it eased up on its mask recommendations.
The U.S. is seeing more than 40,000 new cases of coronavirus infections a day, up from about 11,000 a day in June. Meanwhile, the vaccination rate has slowed down, with about 500,000 people a day getting shots compared to about 3.4 million-plus at the peak on April 8, according to the Washington Post’s vaccine tracker.
Florida is the epicenter of transmissions, according to Dr. David Rubin, director of PolicyLab at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. Texas, Missouri and Florida account for 40 percent of all U.S. cases in the country, federal health officials said.
On May 13, the CDC made sweeping changes in guidance for vaccinated Americans, saying it no longer recommended masks indoors or outdoors, including in crowds. CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky made the announcement at a White House briefing. As recently as July 16, the CDC said that fully vaccinated people can resume activities without wearing masks unless required by other regulators. The vaccinated can resume domestic and international travel without needing testing before or after unless required by the destination.
However, top White House aides and Biden administration officials are debating whether to recommend that vaccinated Americans wear masks in more settings as the delta variant spikes infections across the country, Washington Post reported.
Covid-19 hospitalizations are rising in all 50 states, especially in states with low vaccination rates such as Arkansas, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri and Nevada. Hospital staff and officials say the increase happened fast when their communities returned to pre-pandemic social activities, New York Times reported.
In a Missouri county where about two-third of the population is not fully vaccinated, staff at At Mercy Hospital in Springfield say the covid patient count grew from 26 to 115 in a month, causing a shortage of ventilators. Now with 155 Covid patients, the hospital surpassed its previous peak and expects to have 200-plus patients by early August.
Even the vaccinated may need to mask up as the delta variant surges, tweeted Dr. Jerome Adams, the former surgeon general during the Trump administration.
“The CDC messaging that vaccinated people can drop their masks “has just absolutely, unequivocally failed,” Dr. Adams tweeted.
“Dear @CDCgov—please update masks,” tweeted Dr. Eric Feigl-Ding, an epidemiologist and health economist. Feigl-Ding quoted CDC Director Dr. Wallensky in a tweet saying the delta variant is now 83 percent of all sequenced samples in the U.S., up from 50 percent two weeks ago. He also quoted Dr. Andy Slavitt, former Biden White House senior advisor for covid response, saying “We should think about Delta variant as the 2020 version of #COVID19 on steroids.”
Reported covid cases hit a 15-month low in late June before they started rising again as fewer people got vaccinated and the more infectious delta variant dug in. The U.S. reported an average of 43,700 new cases per day over the past week, according to a CNBC report on July 23. That’s far less than pandemic highs of 254,000 vaccinations for the 7-day moving average cases reported by the CDC on Jan. 10, 2021. However, the 43,700 cases were up 65 percent over the previous seven days and nearly three times as high as two weeks ago, data compiled by Johns Hopkins University shows.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends schools require face masks for children age 2 or older and all adults, regardless of vaccination status, according to the Associated Press. The CDC recommends masks for anyone without a covid-19 vaccine in schools, ClickOrlando reported.
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