The global tally of confirmed cases of COVID-19 climbed above 189 million on Friday, as the highly transmissible delta variant continued to spread across the world, pushing new infection numbers higher in many countries, including the U.S.
COVID-19 cases are rising in every U.S. state, according to data aggregated by Johns Hopkins University, and some have seen them double from a week ago.
The daily average number of new U.S. cases stood at 28,315 on Thursday, according to a New York Times tracker, up 121% from two weeks ago. Hospitalizations and deaths, though well below levels seen at the peak of the pandemic, are also rising, with 20,952 patients in hospitals on Thursday, up 26% from two weeks ago, and 280 fatalities, up 9%, the tracker shows.
Experts continue to express concern about the stalled vaccine program, with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s vaccine tracker showing that 48.3% of the overall U.S. population is fully vaccinated, up from 48.2% on Thursday. That means they have had two doses of the vaccines developed by Pfizer /zigman2/quotes/202877789/composite PFE +0.07% with German partner BioNTech /zigman2/quotes/214419716/composite BNTX -0.61% and by Moderna /zigman2/quotes/205619834/composite MRNA +1.54% or one shot of Johnson & Johnson’s /zigman2/quotes/201724570/composite JNJ -0.36% single-dose regimen. The AstraZeneca /zigman2/quotes/200304487/composite AZN -0.66% /zigman2/quotes/203048482/delayed UK:AZN -1.07% vaccine has not been authorized for emergency use in the U.S.
Among adults 18 and over, 59.2% are fully vaccinated, while 67.9% have received at least one shot. That’s still below President Joe Biden’s goal of having 70% of the adult population receive at least one jab by July 4. Biden and his administration are pushing hard to persuade unvaccinated Americans to roll up their sleeves, as 99% of recent deaths were among unvaccinated people.
Cases are rising fastest in Arkansas, Florida, Missouri and Nevada, which have vaccinated less than half of their residents. But the situation is troubling elsewhere, too, and Los Angeles County, the biggest county in the U.S., is reimposing an indoor face-mask mandate that includes vaccinated people, as it works to cope with its more than 1,000 new cases a day over the past week, as the Associated Press reported.
“This is an all-hands-on-deck moment,” said Los Angeles County’s public health officer, Dr. Muntu Davis, at a virtual press conference.
U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy warned against the danger of vaccine misinformation, which is undermining the vaccine push.
Misinformation “can cause confusion, sow mistrust, harm people’s health, and undermine public health efforts. Limiting the spread of health misinformation is a moral and civic imperative that will require a whole-of-society effort,” he said in remarks at the White House and in a 22-page advisory.
On Thursday, the World Health Organization again warned that new variants will continue to emerge as long as the virus keeps spreading, and new ones could be more lethal or prove resistant to vaccines, undermining the entire effort.
Elsewhere, the European Union’s disease agency is predicting a sharp increase in COVID cases by Aug. 1, due to the delta variant, AFP reported. The European Center for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) expected to see 420 cases per 100,000 inhabitants for the week ending Aug. 1, up from just under 90 last week, it said in a weekly report.
The WHO’s Africa head has warned that recent protests and rioting in two of South Africa’s most populous provinces will likely spark a surge in new cases.
“We are concerned about the last three or so days of rioting in some parts of South Africa, it may exacerbate the situation of a very severe wave,” Matshidiso Moeti, the WHO’s director for its Africa region, said on a conference call on Thursday, according to News24.
In the U.K., there is growing concern about Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s plan to fully reopen England on Monday, even as new delta cases are climbing rapidly. Earlier this week, a group of 1,200 scientists published a letter in the Lancet, warning that the strategy could create new variants.