US 'Losing Time' Against Delta Variant, NIH Chief Says

Carolyn Crist

July 15, 2021

Editor's note: Find the latest COVID-19 news and guidance in Medscape's Coronavirus Resource Center.

As COVID-19 cases increase again in nearly all states, public health officials say the US needs to get ahead of the contagious Delta variant by vaccinating more people, according to CNN.

Average vaccination rates continue to drop, yet case rates are going up by at least 10% in 47 states. In 35 states, cases increased 50% during the past week.

After reaching a low of 11,000 daily cases last month, US cases have doubled during the past 2 weeks, climbing to an average of about 25,000 new infections per day.

"We're losing time here," Francis Collins, MD, director of the National Institutes of Health, told CNN on Wednesday.

About 65% of Americans ages 12 years and older have received at least one vaccine dose, according to the latest CDC tally updated on Wednesday. More than 56% are fully vaccinated.

Those who are vaccinated are largely protected from the coronavirus, including the Delta variant, he said. The key is getting vaccines to those who haven't yet received a shot.

"The Delta variant is spreading, people are dying," Collins said. "We can't actually just wait for things to get more rational."

The Delta variant now accounts for about 58% of new COVID-19 cases in the US, according to ABC News. It was first detected in the US in March and is now being reported in all 50 states.

The Delta variant has been detected in at least 111 countries and is likely to become the dominant strain globally during the next few months, according to The Associated Press. COVID-19 cases are growing globally, rising about 10% worldwide to nearly 3 million last week. The highest numbers are being reported in Brazil, India, Indonesia, and Britain.

COVID-19 deaths also increased globally last week after 9 consecutive weeks of decline, the AP reported. More than 55,000 people died, which was a 3% increase from the previous week.

Unvaccinated Americans are being hit hardest by the latest growth in cases, Collins told CNN. Now more than 99% of hospitalized COVID-19 patients are unvaccinated. Major outbreaks have also emerged in areas with low vaccination rates, including parts of Arkansas, Louisiana, Missouri, and Nevada, according to The New York Times .

"If you are on the fence about whether vaccination is going to help you, listen to those numbers," Collins said. "Why are we waiting, folks? Let's roll up our sleeves if we haven't already done so."

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