Aug. 9, 2021 -- The number of new COVID-19 infections, hospitalizations, and deaths keeps climbing as the Delta variant spreads across the United States.
The U.S. is now averaging more than 100,000 new coronavirus infections daily, according to figures from Johns Hopkins University. While that number is lower than the peak of 250,000 new daily cases from January, it’s a big jump from the low of 11,000 new daily cases in late June.
CDC Director Rochelle Walensky, MD, said things will get worse if more people don’t become vaccinated.
"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," she said on CNN.
The U.S. on Friday passed the milestone of having 50% of the population partially vaccinated. The unvaccinated face a risk of infection because of the high transmissibility of the Delta variant, health experts say.
The surge in new cases is concentrated in the South and lower Midwest, with Florida alone accounting for around 20% of new infections.
The Florida Department of Health registered 134,506 coronavirus cases over the seven-day period from July 30 to Aug 5. That’s more than 19,000 infections daily -- the highest infection rate in the state since the beginning of the COVID pandemic.
Testing positivity rate in Florida rose to 18.5% from 18.1% the week before. The World Health Organization says states should have a positivity rate of 5% or less for at least two weeks before reopening.
Despite calls to do more to quell the pandemic, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has vowed not to lock down the economy again.
The governor signed an order last week prohibiting schools from requiring masks and says he will not reimpose a state of emergency, which could make transportation of medical equipment easier.
“Between the vaccinations we’ve done and the treatments, those combined reduce this to a flu-level risk,” DeSantis told TV station WGLF on Friday when asked why he hadn’t declared a state of emergency. “We have the funding and the resources. We are at the height of this wave."
National hospitalizations for COVID tripled in about a month. More than 43,000 people in the U.S. were hospitalized for COVID-related reasons in late July, far below the mid-January peak of 133,000 but a big jump from the 12,000 in late June, according to Our World in Data.
New cases are straining hospitals, especially in the South.
“Over the past seven days, Florida and Texas have accounted for one-third of new cases, and more than one-third of hospitalizations nationwide,” White House COVID-19 Response Coordinator Jeff Zients said this week at a news briefing.
“Seven states alone -- Florida, Texas, Missouri, Arkansas, Louisiana, Alabama, and Mississippi, states with some of the lowest vaccination rates -- account for about half of new cases and hospitalizations in the past week despite making up a quarter of the population.”
One of the biggest hospitals in Louisiana was so overwhelmed that a 33-member federal disaster assistance team was sent in to help deal with the new COVID cases. In Houston, an 11-month-old girl who became infected had to be airlifted to a hospital 150 miles away because no pediatric beds were available, CNN reported.
“The health care system right now is nearly at a breaking point,” David Persse, MD, health authority for the Houston Health Department and EMS medical director, told the Associated Press. “For the next three weeks or so, I see no relief on what’s happening in emergency departments.
The national number of COVID-related deaths has risen from around 270 a day two weeks ago to almost 500 a day on Friday, the AP reported.