July 16, 2021 -- COVID-19 cases are continuing to spike in communities where vaccination rates are low, leading to what CDC Director Rochelle P. Walensky, MD, called “a pandemic of the unvaccinated.”

Walensky reported sobering numbers during a news conference Friday: The most recent 7-day average of new COVID-19 cases was more than 26,300, up 70% from the previous week. The average of daily deaths is now 211 – an increase of 26%.

“There is a clear message that's coming through: This is becoming a pandemic of the unvaccinated,” Walensky said. “We are seeing outbreaks in parts of the country where we're seeing low vaccination coverage.”

She continued, “The good news is, if you're fully vaccinated, you're protected … our biggest concern is we are going to continue see preventable cases, hospitalizations, and sadly, deaths among the unvaccinated.”

Walensky said rates have gone down considerably since the peak of the pandemic when the country saw 200,000 cases per day. However, because of the highly transmissible Delta variant, we are “in a critical moment in the pandemic.”

When asked if breakthrough infections – illness caused by COVID-19 in vaccinated people – is contributing to the spread of the Delta variant, infectious disease expert Anthony S. Fauci, MD, said it is unlikely.

Research shows the viral load among those who are vaccinated is so low that transmission is unlikely, but, he said, there is not sufficient clinical data on that yet.

Fauci said as of June 2021, the variant had made it to 100 countries around the world.

White House COVID-19 coordinator Jeff Zients said four states accounted for 40% of new cases last week – one in five coming from Florida.

Meanwhile, the number of COVID-19 cases is going up in every state as the Delta variant continues to spread across the nation.

An analysis by The New York Times of data from state and local health agencies showed a 7-day average of about 28,000 new cases a day on Thursday, a major jump from around 11,000 daily cases on June 20. That’s still better than the last surge in January, when there was a 7-day average of about 255,000 new cases a day.

“This will definitely be a surge,” Michael Osterholm, PhD, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota, told the Times. “It won’t be as big as what happened in January. But we still have 100 million people in the United States who are susceptible to COVID-19.”

The CDC says the Delta variant is now responsible for about 59% of new COVID-19 infections in the nation.

Hospitalizations are not nearly as high as during the dark days of January, but they’re rising from last month, especially in areas with low vaccination rates.

In Springfield, MO, health officials are seeking state funding to set up a field hospital to handle the overflow of patients, USA Today reported. That was a tactic used in California during the worst days of the pandemic.

Module: video
photo of COVID-19 mRNA vaccine
 
How Do COVID-19 mRNA Vaccines Work?Some of the COVID-19 vaccines are known as mRNA shots. How are they different from traditional vaccines? And do they contain the real virus?189

[MUSIC PLAYING]

SPEAKER: How does a COVID-19

mRNA vaccine work?

COVID vaccines are now

available.

Some of the COVID-19 vaccines

are mRNA vaccines, but what does

this mean?

mRNA vaccines are

different from traditional

vaccines.

mRNA vaccines don't expose you

to any real virus instead,

they're made with messenger

Ribonucleic Acid or mRNA.

This is a type of molecule that

gives instructions to the cell

for how to make different kinds

of proteins.



mRNA molecules are

a natural part of our cells

and how our bodies work.

Researchers have been working

with mRNA vaccines

for many years.

They are made more easily

and safely in a lab

than a vaccine that uses

a virus.

Because of this they can also

be made faster.

The COVID-19 mRNA vaccines

have passed many tests in labs

and in thousands of people,

and meet strict standards

from the FDA.



So how do these vaccines work?

First, a COVID-19 mRNA vaccine

is injected into a muscle

in your upper arm.

Some muscle cells take the mRNA

instructions in the vaccine

and make a harmless piece

of a protein called

a spike protein.

This protein is found

on the outside of the SARS-CoV-2

virus that causes COVID-19.



The muscle cells then destroy

the instructions for how to make

the spike protein.

The mRNA never goes

into the nucleus of your cells

where your DNA is stored.

The newly made spike protein now

sits on the surface

of the muscle cells.



Your immune system senses

the spike protein

as a foreign threat to destroy,

it starts making antibodies

to fight anything

with that spike protein on it.

This will help your body's

immune system recognize

and fight the real virus if it

ever shows up.

It's like recognizing someone

by the hat they wear.

Your body is then

prepared to spot COVID-19

and fight it off before it grows

in your body's cells.



Fast facts to remember

about COVID-19 mRNA vaccines.

They help get your body

ready to fight off the COVID-19

virus before it makes you sick,

they don't use

any live, dead, or weak virus,

they can't give you COVID-19,

they don't affect your DNA.

Want to learn more,

go to cdc.gov to find more

information about mRNA vaccines.

You can also learn more about

how the vaccines were approved

at fda.gov.



[SWOOSH]



[MUSIC PLAYING]



From Krames/delivery/aws/e1/19/e1194689-aff0-4d9e-9fd2-2c0084642589/b37084c0-2e1f-4b66-958c-96e7a6c3f4db_krames_activating_health_how_mrna_vaccine_works_021021_,4500k,2500k,1000k,750k,400k,.mp402/10/2021 12:00:0018001200photo of COVID-19 mRNA vaccine/webmd/consumer_assets/site_images/article_thumbnails/video/1800x1200_krames_activating_health_how_mrna_vaccine_works_video.jpg091e9c5e8210a400

"Over the past week, we have seen dramatic increases in COVID-19-related cases," said Katie Towns, the interim Greene County, MO, Health Department director. "We need help."

Less than half of the adults in Missouri are fully vaccinated, according to the Times.

The Times said new cases are up 70% in the last 2 weeks in Mississippi, where only 43% of adults are vaccinated. That’s the lowest rate in the nation.

The Mississippi State Department of Public Health is now advising everybody over 12 to get vaccinated, all people to wear masks when indoors in public areas, and everybody over 65 to avoid indoor mass gatherings -- whether they’re vaccinated or not.

National health officials keep urging people to get vaccinated, especially because the three vaccines given emergency use authorization have been shown to give strong protection against the Delta variant.

But vaccine hesitancy remains, especially in the Southern and Midwestern states.

The Times said only about 530,000 people in the U.S. are being vaccinated a day, down from 3.3 million a day in April. Less than half the U.S. is fully vaccinated, the CDC says, though 79% of people over 65 -- the most vulnerable demographic -- are fully vaccinated.

“In March, people flooded to our vaccination sites -- all we had to do was open a door,” Ben Weston, MD, the director of medical services for the Milwaukee County Office of Emergency Management in Wisconsin, told the Times. “Now we have to go out and find people.”

About 48% of people in Milwaukee County are fully vaccinated, The Times reported.

L.A. County Makes Indoor Masking Mandatory

Los Angeles County public health officials are once again making face masks in indoor public places mandatory -- not just advisable -- regardless of a person’s vaccination status. The new masking order takes effect Saturday.

Because of the Delta variant, case counts have soared since the state government reopened the economy on June 15, L.A. County Public Health said in a news release.

The Health Department reported 210 new COVID cases on June 15, compared to 1,537 new cases on Thursday -- the highest number since mid-March. Thursday’s test positivity rate was 3.7%, up from .5% on June 15.

The Delta variant accounted for 71% of all sequenced cases from June 27 to July 3, the Health Department said.

“We expect to keep masking requirements in place until we begin to see improvements in our community transmission of COVID-19,” L.A. County Health Officer Muntu Davis, MD, said in the release.

Sacramento and Yolo counties in California are now recommending, but not requiring, that residents wear masks in indoor public places, according to SFGate. California Gov. Gavin Newsom said last week there was no immediate plan for a statewide requirement.

Austin, TX, Brings Back COVID Protocols

Because of a surge in infections, the city of Austin, TX, is returning to Stage 3 protocols, the city government said in a news release.

The city recommends that unvaccinated or partially vaccinated people wear masks at indoor and outdoor gatherings or while dining, shopping, and traveling. People who are unvaccinated or partially vaccinated and considered high-risk should avoid those activities altogether.

Vaccinated people don’t need to wear masks during those activities, the news release said.

“While the Delta variant has likely been circulating in our area for a while, we now have confirmation through sequencing that it is here,” said Desmar Walkes, MD, the health authority for Austin-Travis County.

“Disturbingly, we are now experiencing a rise in COVID hospitalizations that could overwhelm our city’s ICUs. Almost all these hospitalizations involve those who have not been vaccinated. This is a plea for people to become vaccinated, so we do not put our ICU capacity at risk,” Austin Mayor Steve Adler said in the news release.

But the Texas Tribune pointed out that the Stage 3 guidelines don’t carry the weight of law. Last May, Gov. Greg Abbott banned pandemic mandates.

MLB Game Postponed After 6 Yankees Test Positive

A Thursday game between the Boston Red Sox and the New York Yankees was postponed when six Yankee players tested positive for COVID-19, Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said, according to CNN.

"We have three positives, and we have three pending that we've had rapid tests on," Cashman said. The rapid tests are being confirmed with other tests, he said.

The three players with confirmed positive tests were all vaccinated, he said. In March, eight “breakthrough” cases were reported with the Yankees.

WebMD Health News Brief

Sources

The New York Times: “After a Steep Plunge in Virus Cases, Every State Is Seeing an Uptick,” “See How Vaccinations Are Going in Your County and State.”

USA Today: “Health leaders ask for funding to set up 'alternate care site' as hospitals strain under new COVID-19 infections.”

Mississippi State Department of Public Health: “Preventing COVID-19: Recommendations and Requirements.”

L.A. County Public Health: “L.A. County Community Transmission of COVID-19 Increases from Moderate to Substantial; Reinstating Masking Indoors for Everyone -- 1,537 New Confirmed Cases of COVID-19 in Los Angeles County and 3 Deaths.”

SFGate: “LA County requires masks again, 2 California counties recommend.”

City of Austin: “COVID-19 News Update.”

Texas Tribune: "Austin announces stricter coronavirus protocols for unvaccinated residents as cases increase. But it can’t legally enforce them."

CNN: "Game postponed after 6 New York Yankees have tested positive for Covid-19, team says."

White COVID-19 Response Team, press briefing, July 16, 2021.

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