Coronavirus pandemic updates
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President Joe Biden’s chief medical adviser has warned “things will get worse” as the Delta variant of coronavirus sweeps through the US, although he added a return to the lockdowns of last year was unlikely.
“If you look at the acceleration of the number of cases, the seven-day average has gone up substantially,” said Anthony Fauci, who warned that the country was witnessing “an outbreak of the unvaccinated”.
“We have 100 million people in this country who are eligible to be vaccinated who are not vaccinated,” Fauci said on CBS.
“We’ve really got to get those people to change their minds, make it easy for them, convince them, do something to get them to be vaccinated because they are the ones that are propagating this outbreak.”
His comments come as concerns over the spread of the highly contagious Delta variant have risen in the US, while the rate of vaccine take-up in recent weeks has slowed.
New cases top more than 60,000 a day, the highest level since April, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It says the Delta strain accounts for more than 80 per cent of those cases.
Covid-19 cases in vaccinated people remain very low, with vaccines helping to keep symptoms mild in the vast majority of cases. But the CDC has said there were signs that the vaccinated people who do fall ill with the Delta variant have viral loads as high as those in unvaccinated people, suggesting they are just as likely to pass it on.
The CDC last week issued new guidelines advising even fully vaccinated people to wear masks indoors in areas where virus transmission is high.
On Thursday, Joe Biden announced that any federal workers who are not fully vaccinated would have to wear a mask at work.
But some Republican state officials have resisted implementing fresh safeguards, even as daily case numbers in their states spiral. Ron DeSantis, Florida’s Republican governor, signed an executive order rejecting mask mandates in schools and pledging there would be “no lockdowns”.
On Friday, Florida reported 21, 683 new cases, the most recorded in a single day since the start of the pandemic, according to data from the CDC. It has recorded more new cases than any other state — double the number in second-ranked Texas — and now accounts for about one in five new infections in the US.
In Texas, Republican governor Greg Abbott has also banned local and state agencies from mandating vaccines, even as daily average cases rise.
Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health, on Sunday appeared on Fox News to warn that the Delta variant was “extremely contagious” and reaching “very high levels” across Missouri, Arkansas and Louisiana.
“We are now once again seeing case levels per day closing in on 100,000, which we haven’t seen since February,” Collins said, urging people to get vaccinated.
“If you haven’t yet gotten vaccinated, the evidence is now overwhelming,” said Collins. “There are so many things that are not going to be easy for you to do if you’re not vaccinated. Companies are starting to require this.”
“Just let’s get off the fence, move forward, and be part of the winning team that gets this Delta out of here,” he added.