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US COVID Cases, Hospitalizations Rise Again

People wait in line for COVID-19 vaccinations at an event at La Bonita market, a Hispanic grocery store, July 7, 2021, in Las Vegas, as the areas with the lowest vaccination rates have the highest rates of new cases.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said Thursday new cases of COVID-19 were up in the United States by nearly 11 percent in the past week, driven by the prevalence of the delta variant in areas with the nation’s lowest vaccination rates.

During the regular weekly White House COVID Response Team briefing, CDC Director Rochelle Walensky said hospitalizations were also up in the past week by about seven percent, while deaths from COVID-19 continued to fall.

Walensky said the statistics show “two truths” that exist in the U.S., with the nation’s vaccination effort significantly driving down cases, hospitalizations and deaths from COVID-19 from the peaks they reached in January. She said more than 160 million people in the United States are now fully vaccinated.

On the other hand, the CDC director said “new and concerning trends” are being seen indicating the areas with the lowest vaccination rates have the highest rates of new cases and highest percentage of the more contagious delta variant of the virus that causes COVID-19.

She said the delta variant is now the most prevalent variant in the country, accounting for more than 50 percent of all new cases across the country, up from 26 percent in just over two weeks. She said the variant accounts for much as 80 percent of new cases in some areas of the Midwest and mountain states.

The CDC director said 93 percent of the 173 counties in the U.S. with infection rates higher than 100 per 100,000 people also have vaccination rates below 40 percent.

Walensky, along with White House Senior Health Advisor Anthony Fauci, stressed the effectiveness of all the available COVID-19 vaccines against the delta variant, in terms of preventing severe disease, hospitalizations and deaths. Both stressed the need for widespread vaccinations to truly turn the corner on the pandemic.

Fauci and Walensky also clarified that fully vaccinated people have a high degree of protection from the virus and do not need to wear masks indoors.

Fauci said that if you were a fully vaccinated person with conditions that make you susceptible to serious illness and you were in a location with low vaccination rates and or a high rate of infection, you might consider wearing a mask. But he stressed that was not a recommendation.