The number of new cases of COVID-19 in the U.S. has more than doubled in the last two weeks, as the delta variant continues to race across the nation, infecting both vaccinated and unvaccinated people, who account for more than 99% of recent fatalities.
The average case tally on Wednesday was 26,513, according to a New York Times tracker, up 111% from two weeks ago. Hospitalizations have climbed 22% and deaths are up 5% in the same time frame, albeit they remain at far lower levels than at the peak of the crisis in the spring of 2020. Overall, 47 states are showing new cases up 10% from a week ago, according to Johns Hopkins University data.
Experts are increasingly describing two Americas, divided between the vaccinated and unvaccinated, with the latter group putting themselves and others at risk of infection as the vaccine program grinds to a halt.
“Despite national, regional, and global efforts, the pandemic is nowhere near finished. The pandemic continues to evolve with four variants of concern dominating global epidemiology. The Committee recognized the strong likelihood for the emergence and global spread of new and possibly more dangerous variants of concern that may be even more challenging to control.”
— World Health Organization emergency committee
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Infection’s vaccine tracker is showing that 160 million Americans are fully inoculated, equal to 48.2% of the overall population. That means they have had two shots of the vaccines developed by Pfizer
and German partner BioNTech
or one shot of Johnson & Johnson’s
one-dose regimen. The AstraZeneca
vaccine has not been granted emergency use authorization in the U.S.
Among adults 18-years-and-older, 59.1% are fully vaccinated, while 67.8% have received at least one dose, still short of President Joe Biden’s goal of having 70% of the adult population receive at least one shot by the July 4 holiday. The numbers are barely budging day-to-day now, despite concerns expressed by healthcare experts.
“We’re losing time here. The delta variant is spreading, people are dying, we can’t actually just wait for things to get more rational,” Dr. Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health told CNN Wednesday.
The World Health Organization’s emergency committee warned that with delta and three other variants of concern still circulating, the “pandemic is nowhere near finished.”
Instead, there is a “strong likelihood for the emergence and global spread of new and possibly more dangerous variants of concern that may be even more challenging to control,” the committee said in a statement.
Elsewhere, Indonesia set another daily case record of 54,517 and has overtaken India as the Asian epicenter of the pandemic, CNN reported. At least 991 fatalities were recorded in the nation of about 170 million people on Wednesday to push the total to 69,210.
Russia had 25,293 new cases and a record death toll of 791 on Thursday, according to The Moscow Times, raising the overall death toll to 146,069, the highest official number in Europe.
In China, local governments are moving aggressively to push residents to get vaccinated and some are planning to bar them from accessing public venues if they refuse, The Wall Street Journal reported. Roughly a dozen counties and cities in the eastern provinces of Zhejiang, Fujian and Jiangxi have set late-August deadlines for people 18 years or older to complete a two-shot vaccine regimen, according to similarly worded online statements.
Many of them also set dates in late July by when unvaccinated people would be barred from entering schools, libraries, prisons, nursing homes and inpatient facilities at hospitals without a valid medical exemption, the paper reported. China has fully vaccinated more than 40% of its population of 1.4 billion so far.
A cluster of COVID cases at a hotel hosting Olympic athletes is raising concerns coming just over a week before the opening ceremony, Reuters reported. Adding to the gloom, Tokyo has just recorded its highest number of new COVID cases in six months.
Singapore reported its highest case number in 10 months, after uncovering a cluster among hostesses and customers at Karaoke bars, Reuters reported. Singapore has yet to reopen KTV lounges and clubs and authorities said the places where the virus spread were operating as food and beverage outlets.
Meanwhile, the United Nations’ Unicef agency and the World Health Organization said about 23 million children missed out on other basic vaccinations during the pandemic and warned of the potential for outbreaks of diseases including polio, measles and meningitis.
“Multiple disease outbreaks would be catastrophic for communities and health systems already battling COVID-19, making it more urgent than ever to invest in childhood vaccination and ensure every child is reached,” WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said in a statement.
“This is a wake-up call – we cannot allow a legacy of COVID-19 to be the resurgence of measles, polio and other killers,” said Dr. Seth Berkley, CEO of Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance. “We all need to work together to help countries both defeat COVID-19, by ensuring global, equitable access to vaccines, and get routine immunization programs back on track.”
The global tally for the coronavirus-borne illness climbed above 188.5 million on Thursday, while the death toll climbed further above 4.06 million, according to data aggregated by Johns Hopkins University.
The U.S. leads the world with a total of 33.9 million cases and in deaths with 608,135.
India is closing in on the U.S. in cases at 30.9 million but is third in deaths at 411,989, while Brazil is second in deaths at 537,394 but is third in cases at 19.2 million.
Mexico has the fourth-highest death toll at 235,507 but has recorded just 2.6 million cases, according to its official numbers.
In Europe, the U.K. has 128,797 deaths the second highest in Europe after Russia.
China, where the virus was first discovered late in 2019, has had 104,157 confirmed cases and 4,848 deaths, according to its official numbers, which are widely held to be massively underreported.