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Delta variant is ‘Covid-19 on steroids,’ expert says, with cases increasing in nearly half of US states

(CNN)Twenty-four states have seen an uptick of at least 10% in Covid-19 cases over the past week, Johns Hopkins University data shows, as health experts and the federal government keep pressing for more people to get vaccinated.

The rapid spread of the Delta variant of the coronavirus has only ratcheted up the pressure.
That variant, first identified in India, accounted for 51.7% of all new Covid-19 infections in the country over the two weeks that ended Saturday, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has estimated.
“We should think about the Delta variant as the 2020 version of Covid-19 on steroids,” Andy Slavitt, a former senior adviser to Joe Biden’s Covid Response Team, told CNN on Wednesday. “It’s twice as infectious. Fortunately, unlike 2020, we actually have a tool that stops the Delta variant in its tracks: It’s called vaccine.”

LOS ANGELES, CA – JUNE 29: Wearing face masks, people walk through Union Station on Tuesday, June 29, 2021 in Los Angeles, CA. While the available COVID-19 vaccines appear to offer strong protection, there???s real concern surrounding the vulnerability of those who have yet to receive all their required shots, or any doses at all In L.A. (Francine Orr / Los Angeles Times)

For fully vaccinated people, the variant “presents very little threat to you, very unlikely that you’re gonna get sick,” he said
Full approval for vaccines from the US Food and Drug Administration could encourage more people to get vaccinated, Slavitt and other experts have said. The current vaccines distributed in the US are authorized for emergency use only. Full approval for the Pfizer vaccine could come as early as this month, Slavitt said Tuesday.
As of Wednesday, less than half of the US population — 47.6% — was fully vaccinated. The percentage of eligible people who were fully vaccinated — ages 12 and up — was 55.6%.
Cases and hospitalizations are up especially in parts of the country where vaccination coverage is low, CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said at a White House Covid-19 briefing Thursday.
Counties with the highest case rates tended to have low vaccination rates. In the last week, 173 counties had at least 100 cases per 100,000 residents — and in more than 90% of those counties, vaccination coverage was less than 40%, Walensky said.
More than 9 million people live in those counties, she said.
“Many of these counties are also the same locations where the Delta variant represents the large majority of circulating virus,” Walensky said.

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“Low vaccination rates in these counties, coupled with high case rates — and lax mitigation policies that do not protect those who are unvaccinated from disease — will certainly, and sadly, lead to more unnecessary suffering, hospitalizations and potentially deaths,” she added.
The case rate has been rising for the US as a whole. The country averaged more than 15,060 new cases a day over a week ending Wednesday — 20.7% higher than the average from the week prior, according to Johns Hopkins data.
The average is still well below this spring’s peak — an average of 71,320 daily for a week ending April 14 — and the pandemic peak average of more than 251,000 daily for a week ending January 8.
Covid-19 hospitalizations also have been ticking up recently. The number of Covid-19 patients in US hospitals was nearly 18,000 Tuesday, according to the US Department of Health and Human Services.
That’s slightly above the total of 16,792 two weeks earlier, though well below the pandemic peak of more than 136,000 on January 5.

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