The U.S. is now averaging 100,000 new COVID-19 infections a day, returning to a milestone last seen during the winter surge in another bleak reminder of how quickly the delta variant of the coronavirus has spread.
Health officials fear that the numbers of new cases, hospitalizations and deaths will continue to soar if more Americans don’t embrace the COVID-19 vaccine. Nationwide, 50 per cent of residents are fully vaccinated and more than 70 per cent of adults have received at least one dose.
It took the U.S. about nine months to cross the 100,000 average case number in November before peaking at about 250,000 in early January. Cases bottomed out in June, averaging about 11,000 per day, but six weeks later the number is 107,143.
Hospitalizations and deaths are also increasing rapidly, though all are still below peaks seen early this year before vaccines became widely available.
More than 44,000 Americans are currently hospitalized with COVID-19, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, up 30 per cent in a week and nearly four times the number who were hospitalized in June. More than 120,000 were hospitalized in January.
The seven-day average for deaths also increased, according to Johns Hopkins University. It rose from about 270 deaths per day two weeks ago to nearly 500 a day as of Friday. Deaths peaked at 3,500 per day in January. Deaths usually lag behind hospitalizations as the disease normally takes a few weeks to kill.
The situation is particularly dire in the South, which has some of the lowest vaccination rates in the U.S. and has seen smaller hospitals overrun with patients.
The Southeast has seen a more than 50 per cent jump in number of hospitalized COVID patients — a daily average of 17,600 over the last week compared with 11,600 to the previous week, the CDC says. Florida, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee and Kentucky represent 41 per cent of the nation’s new hospitalizations, the CDC says, twice their overall share of the population.
Alabama and Mississippi have the lowest vaccination rates in the country: less than 35 per cent of residents are fully inoculated, according to the Mayo Clinic. Georgia, Tennessee and the Carolinas are all in the lowest 15 states.
Florida makes up more than 20 per cent of the nation’s new cases and hospitalizations, triple its share of the population. Many rural counties have vaccination rates below 40 per cent, with the state at 49 per cent.
In some parts of the U.S., hospitals are scrambling to find beds for patients. Houston officials said some patients were transferred out of the city — one as far as North Dakota.
In Missouri, 30 ambulances and more than 60 medical personnel will be stationed across the state to help transport COVID-19 patients to other regions if nearby hospitals are too full to admit them, Republican Gov. Mike Parson announced Friday.
What’s happening in Canada
What’s happening around the world
As of Saturday, more than 201.8 million cases of COVID-19 had been reported around the world, according to the coronavirus tracker maintained by U.S.-based Johns Hopkins University. The reported global death toll stood at more than 4.3 million.
In Europe, thousands of people marched in Paris and other French cities Saturday for a fourth consecutive week of protests against the COVID-19 health passes that everyone in the country will need shortly to enter cafes, trains and other venues.
In Asia, India has given emergency use authorization to Johnson & Johnson’s single-shot coronavirus vaccine, the country’s health minister said Saturday. After hitting a daily high of nine million shots in June, the country’s vaccination rate has steadily dropped due to supply and approval issues.
In the Americas, Mexico City and a half-dozen of the country’s 32 states are now on “red” alert as COVID-19 infections rose to their highest level ever. Nearly a quarter of Mexico is now on the highest level of alert, which requires some non-essential businesses to close and forces others to serve fewer customers at a time.
In Africa, coronavirus deaths peaked in the continent this past week with more than 6,400 recorded fatalities, according to the WHO Africa Region’s vaccines introduction medical officer. Dr. Phionah Atuhebwe says the continent must ramp up efforts to reach its 30 per cent vaccination target by the end of 2021.