Delta variant among the most infectious respiratory viruses, CDC says

CDC Director Rochelle Walensky, MD, called the COVID-19 Delta variant “one of the most infectious respiratory viruses we know of” and reported more cases and hospitalizations.

“Today, I want to speak about our need to come together against a common enemy. SARS-CoV-2 and the Delta variant is spreading with incredible efficiency, and now represents more than 83% of the virus circulating in the U.S.,” Dr. Walensky said at a news briefing July 22. “It is one of the most infectious respiratory viruses we know of and that I have seen in my 20-year career.”

Dr. Walensky said there were 46,318 cases of COVID-19 reported July 21, with a 7-day average of 37,700 cases per day — up 53% from the previous week. Hospital admissions average about 3,500 per day, an increase of 32%. The 7-day average of deaths is 237 — a 19% increase from the previous week.

Meanwhile, there are now 162 million Americans who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19.

Areas with low vaccination coverage continue to have the highest case numbers, she reported, with unvaccinated people accounting for 97% of hospitalizations and deaths.

But there may be early signs of progress. The four states with the highest case rates — Arkansas, Florida, Louisiana, and Nevada — had a higher rate of new vaccinations, compared with the national average over the past week, White House COVID-19 Response Coordinator Jeff Zients said.

He also announced that the administration will send $100 million to nearly 2,000 rural health clinics to support vaccine education and outreach efforts.

Dr. Walensky said despite the rising numbers, the CDC mask guidance remains the same, but she encouraged vaccinated people to wear masks if they choose.

“Whether you are vaccinated or not, please know we together are not out of the woods yet,” she said. “We are yet at another pivotal moment in this pandemic, with cases rising again and hospitals reaching their capacity in some areas.”

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