Cases of COVID-19, along with hospitalisations and deaths, remain on the rise in the United States even as the pace of vaccinations has increased, fuelling ongoing concerns about the spread of the highly contagious Delta variant.
Chemist chain Walgreens said on Wednesday that it has seen a recent jump in inoculations in parts of the country that had previously lagged behind.
The number of jabs rose more than 30 percent in states, including Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky and Texas, in the past few weeks, said the company, which now has administered more than 29 million COVID-19 jabs since the pandemic began.
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said an average of about 600,000 doses were being administered daily across the country as of July 29, a 16 percent increase from a week prior.
As of August 2, the seven-day rolling average of new cases of the coronavirus stood at 84,389, according to the CDC.
The CDC said hospitalisations are up 46 percent and deaths were also up – with an average of 296 a week during the last week of July – representing a 33 percent increase from the week before.
The nation’s top infectious disease expert, Dr Anthony Fauci, who also serves as the White House’s chief medical adviser, said he expects cases to continue to rise sharply in the coming weeks.
“Remember, just a couple of months ago, we were having about 10,000 cases a day,” he said in an interview with McClatchy published on Wednesday. “I think you’re likely going to wind up somewhere between 100,000 and 200,000 cases,” he said.
The rise in infections led the CDC to recommend last week that even people who have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19 resume wearing face masks in some public indoor settings.
In the US, 70 percent of adults have received at least one vaccine dose.
The Biden administration has blamed the latest surge in cases on the approximately 90 million people who remain unvaccinated.
On Tuesday, Biden called on resistant Republican governors to “get out of the way” of vaccine rules aimed at containing the more transmissible and dangerous COVID-19 variant.
Biden criticised Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, Texas Governor Greg Abbott and other officials who have moved to block the re-imposition of mask mandates to slow the Delta strain. Health officials said on Monday that one in three cases nationwide were reported in Florida and Texas during the past week.
“If you’re not going to help, at least get out of the way of people trying to do the right thing,” Biden said.
On Wednesday, the office of former President Barack Obama announced that they would scale back his 60th birthday bash set for this weekend at his Martha’s Vineyard home off the Massachusetts coast due to the surge of infections.
Meanwhile, Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) Director Carissa Etienne warned that cases were going up in North America, especially in southern and eastern parts of the US, as well as in parts of central Mexico.
She said the spread of the virus in the Americas has been particularly harmful for Indigenous communities in Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador and Peru; at least 617,000 Indigenous people have been infected with COVID-19 and nearly 15,000 have died across the region.
“We’ve long said that the virus has exacerbated inequalities in our world,” Etienne told reporters during a weekly briefing on Wednesday. “And this is especially true for our Indigenous peoples, since most lack the financial and social safety nets to ensure they can continue to provide for their families and communities, even when they’re sick.”
On Tuesday, the Washington Post reported that the Biden administration is preparing to offer coronavirus vaccines to migrants in US custody along the country’s border with Mexico.
Under the broad outlines of the new plan, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) will vaccinate the migrants soon after they cross into the US and await processing by US Customs and Border Protection, according to the report, which cited two unnamed DHS officials.
The plan has not yet been finalised, the newspaper said.