U.S. health officials have said the most contagious Delta variant now accounts for more than 80 percent of new cases of coronavirus in the country, a dramatic increase that has highlighted the rapid spread of the most contagious strain.
“[The] CDC has published estimates of variants across the country and predicted that the Delta variant now accounts for 83 percent of sequenced cases, ”Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said during a hearing before to the Senate health committee Tuesday.
“This is a dramatic increase, from 50 percent for the week of July 3,” he said. In some parts of the country, the percentage was even higher, especially in areas with low vaccination rates, he added.
The Delta variant, first discovered in India, has spread rapidly in several countries, including those with high vaccination rates, including the United States and the United Kingdom, alarming health officials and raising fears that restrictions should be put in place to curb the spread.
Over the past year, Dr. Vivek Murthy, the U.S. surgeon general, has warned that more U.S. cities could follow the Los Angeles initiative and reintroduce mask warrants for indoor environments, even among people who are vaccinated throughout, to curb the spread of the Delta variant.
Last week, the United States had made an average of 239 deaths a day from Covid-19, an increase of nearly 48 percent over the previous week, Walensky said.
Earlier he warned that the United States is experiencing a “pandemic of the unvaccinated” with rapidly growing cases as well, particularly in those who are unable or unwilling to be vaccinated despite the abundant supply.
More than 161m of Americans are completely vaccinated, representing about 48.6 percent of the U.S. population, according to CDC data. In nearly two-thirds of U.S. counties, less than 40 percent of people were vaccinated, Walensky said Tuesday.
The Biden administration has expressed concern that the vaccine campaign is fueled by misinformation shared on social media platforms and has engaged in a public outcry with Facebook
“The message from the CDC remains clear: the best way to prevent the spread of Covid-19 variants is to prevent the spread of disease, and vaccination is the most powerful tool we have,” Walensky said.
Kate Bedingfield, White House communications director, he told CNBC Tuesday who thought that social media companies should be held accountable for the misinformation of vaccines posted on their platforms. She said the White House “revised” Section 230 of the Decency in Communication Act, which gives social media companies legal immunity for content that users post on their platforms.