With less than half of the vaccinated population and infections growing relentlessly, United States is “in the wrong direction” in the pandemic.
The warning comes from Anthony Fauci, the White House adviser on infectious diseases, who foresees a resurgence of COVID-19 cases in the country if corrective measures are not taken.
And it is that the United States, the country with the most deaths in the pandemic, faces a dangerous outlook.
While in the last week of June the country registered some 92,000 new cases, in the seven days of last week the figure exceeded 500,000 confirmed infections.
And while the disease has been less lethal, with fewer than 3,000 deaths per week compared to more than 20,000 a few months ago, the spread of the delta variant of Covid-19 is out of control in some states.
Added to this is the stagnation in vaccination rates, mainly in conservative states in the southeast of the country.
“It’s really a pandemic among the unvaccinated,” Fauci told CNN on Sunday.
The focus of the problem: the unvaccinated
Earlier this week, Vivek Murthy, a U.S. surgeon general – a position crediting him as chief of the Commissioned Corps of the Public Health Service – said the 99.5% of the recent deaths due to covid-19 in the country have occurred between unvaccinated people.
Dr. Marcus Plescia, director of the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials, explains that the main problem of the increase in infections is concentrated in one region of the country.
“It is particularly serious in probably six or seven states. The southeastern states and some states in the Midwest of the United States,” says Plescia.
Alabama, Mississippi, Arkansas, Georgia, Tennessee, Oklahoma are states where less than 40% of its population is fully vaccinated (In contrast, in the Northeast region, such as Vermont and Massachusetts, the vaccinated population exceeds 65%).
In addition, the governors of the states with the lowest vaccination – mostly Republicans – have expressed skepticism about federal prevention policies since last year.
“It is a problem predominantly among the unvaccinated, which is why we are out there, practically begging unvaccinated people to go out and get vaccinated.” Plescia says.
Vaccination rates in the United States have stagnated in recent months.
The US had one of the highest daily dose rates in the world through April, but since then the rate has dropped considerably.
The country has so far about 163 million people vaccinated, which is a 49% of its population (About 18% of the country’s population is under 12 years of age, for whom the vaccine has not been authorized).
Plescia notes that the country has begun to register a “slight increase” in the rate of vaccination after the latest news that shows the increase in cases among the unvaccinated.
“We would like to see a lot more, but we are seeing a trend start a little upward and we hear from people that this has caught their attention”, mainly among those who are open to considering getting vaccinated, not so much among those who reject it, he explains.
In his interview with CNN, Fauci said that local leaders in areas with low vaccination rates must do more to encourage people to get the doses.
Now the Republican governors of Arkansas and Florida – who have criticized Fauci’s advice in the past – have been promoting vaccines in their states.
The spread of the delta variant
A problem accompanying low vaccination rates in some US states has been the spread of the delta variant of the SARS-CoV-2 virus, which causes covid-19.
Being more contagious than others, This variant has been transmitted more quickly among people who have not received any dose, as explained by both authorities and public health experts.
“That’s where we are really seeing these significant increases. In other parts of the country where vaccination rates are higher, we are not seeing a big problem, although even in those states we are beginning to see it. Things creep,” says Dr. Plescia.
States that have not lagged so far behind in vaccination, such as Florida (48.5%), are among those infections and hospitalizations have begun to double or even triple.
While at the beginning of the pandemic it was known that someone could be infected by being 15 minutes in front of a virus carrier without a mask, according to epidemiologist Celine Gounder, the delta variant spreads exponentially faster.
“The equivalent of that with the delta variant it’s not 15 minutes, it’s a second,” Gounder says in an article on the specialized health portal STAT.
Fauci said health authorities are evaluating whether people vulnerable to the virus should receive an additional booster dose.
The disuse of masks
Unlike last year, this summer, Americans are back on vacation, attending concerts and sporting events, or eating at crowded restaurants without the use of masks or much social distance.
The lifting of those recommendations advanced rapidly since last May 13, when the president of the United States, Joe Biden, said that those fully vaccinated could return to their normal life without the use of the mask.
But as the pandemic has resurfaced, authorities have begun to wonder if it is necessary to return to the previous policy.
“We are seeing that in Los Angeles. We are seeing that in Chicago. We’re seeing that in New Orleans,” Fauci told CNN. “The officials there, many of them, say that even if you are vaccinated it is prudent to wear a mask indoors.”
Plescia, for its part, considers that the vaccine is the solution above the masks.
“As far as we know from science, that is sound policy. I mean people who are fully vaccinated, because we have very good vaccines. They are very, very effective, fortunately,” he explains to the BBC.
“Even in those cases related to the delta variant, it is unlikely that these people will become seriously ill or end up in hospital or end up dying,” he adds.
Fauci said he participated in discussions about a new policy on the use of masks issued by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), but no decision has been made yet.
The vaccine, mandatory?
Both public authorities and associations have begun to debate whether vaccination should be a requirement for workers in certain essential areas.
In a joint statement, dozens of medical associations on Sunday spoke in favor of the inoculation of the health workers as a requirement to work in hospitals.
“Vaccination is the main way to leave the pandemic behind and avoid the return of strict public health measures,” the 60 signatory associations say in their letter.
Local authorities from New York to California have also raised it.
And this Monday the Department of Veterans Affairs became the first federal agency to issue a work requirement to its employees – which includes health personnel – the vaccine against covid-19.
Although the White House has ruled out imposing mandatory vaccinations for public employees, it has left open the possibility for companies to do so.
“We certainly support these actions by these hospital associations,” spokeswoman Jen Psaki said Monday.
And public opinion is divided: according to a poll by the Politico site and Harvard University published this month, 66% support that health workers should be vaccinated to work.
Instead, they were almost evenly divided on whether other workers should be required to do so.
Melissa Galbraith is the World News reporter for Globe Live Media. She covers all the major events happening around the World. From Europe to Americas, from Asia to Antarctica, Melissa covers it all. Never miss another Major World Event by bookmarking her author page right here.