The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says the delta variant of the coronavirus is as contagious as chickenpox and that infections in vaccinated people may be as transmissible as in the unvaccinated.
Internal CDC documents, first obtained by The Washington Post, urged staff to "acknowledge the war has changed" in light of the delta variant.
The CDC said the variant requires a new approach to help the public understand the danger, adding that evidence shows the delta variant may pose a greater risk for hospitalization and death.
The agency also emphasized that vaccines are highly effective at preventing infections, severe disease and death. The CDC said that while the vaccinated are less likely to get sick, they might be just as likely as those who are unvaccinated to pass the disease to others.
Top U.S. infectious disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci said during an interview Friday with Reuters that he hopes regulators will grant full approval for COVID-19 vaccines as soon as next month. He said the move could encourage more Americans to get the shots, which are currently authorized on an emergency-use basis by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
U.S. President Joe Biden announced Thursday that civilian federal government employees must be vaccinated or submit to regular testing and wear masks.
On Friday, a reporter asked Biden as he was leaving the White House whether Americans should expect more guidelines and restrictions related to the coronavirus. “In all probability,” he said.
Biden also noted that on Thursday almost a million Americans received COVID-19 vaccinations and said, “I am hopeful that people are beginning to realize how essential it is to move” in response to the coronavirus threat.
The White House said the average number of people getting their first shot of the coronavirus vaccines this week was up 30% over last week.
Also Friday, Walmart joined a growing number of U.S. companies to issue employee mandates for its workers to be vaccinated, saying the policy would apply to all employees at its headquarters along with managers who travel within the United States.
And the Broadway League said Friday that audiences will be required to show proof of vaccination to watch Broadway performances and will be required to wear masks.
In worldwide developments, Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte announced lockdown measures Friday for the Manila capital region, home to 13 million people. The move is designed to curb the spread of the delta variant of the coronavirus. The lockdown will go into effect beginning Aug. 6 and lasting until Aug. 20.
Australia's third-largest city of Brisbane said it would begin a COVID lockdown on Saturday amid rising case numbers. Neighboring areas will also be subject to the stay-at-home orders.
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said Friday that 80% of adults must be vaccinated before the country will consider reopening its border.
Japanese authorities expanded a coronavirus state of emergency to four areas outside Tokyo following spikes in infections in the capital, as the city hosts the Olympics.
Tokyo and Okinawa have already been placed under a state of emergency because of the spread of the coronavirus.
Saitama, Chiba, Kanagawa and Osaka are the new prefectures to be under the state of emergency. Several other prefectures will be placed under pre-emergency measures.
Under a state of emergency, business is suspended in locations that serve alcohol or have karaoke. Under pre-emergency measures, businesses are asked not to serve alcohol.
Japan reported more than 10,000 daily coronavirus cases Thursday, the first time the country's daily count exceeded 10,000.
Around the globe
In Israel, health officials began administering coronavirus booster shots Friday to people older than 60 who have been fully vaccinated in an effort to stop a recent spike in cases.
Italy’s Health Institute announced Friday that the delta variant accounted for almost all new COVID-19 cases in the country at nearly 95% of cases as of July 20.
German officials announced Friday that unvaccinated travelers arriving in the country will need to present a negative COVID-19 test result.
WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told a news conference from Geneva on Friday that "hard-won gains are in jeopardy of being lost" because of the delta variant.
WHO officials have said they fear that 47 of Africa's 54 countries will miss a September target of vaccinating 10% of their populations, a goal set earlier this year by the World Health Assembly, the world's highest health policy-setting body. Africa accounts for less than 1% of the more than 4 billion vaccine doses administered globally.
Overall, around the globe, just 1.1% of people in low-income countries have received at least one vaccine dose.
The Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center reported Friday more than 197 million global COVID infections and more than 4.2 million deaths from the disease worldwide.
Some information for this report came from Reuters and the Associated Press.