By Holly Yan and Madeline Holcombe, CNN
The surge in Covid-19 cases fueled by the Delta variant and vaccine hesitancy has now led to increasing rates of hospitalizations and deaths.
Data from Johns Hopkins University shows:
— The average number of new Covid-19 cases each day the past week was 32,278. That’s a 66% jump from the average daily rate the previous week, and 145% higher than the rate from two weeks ago.
— An average of 258 Americans died from Covid-19 each day this past week — up 13% from the rate of daily deaths the previous week.
— And 24,923 people are hospitalized with Covid-19, according to data from the US Department of Health and Human Services. That’s a 26% increase from last week and a 50% increase from two weeks ago.
There’s a common theme among those behind the worsening Covid-19 numbers, said Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:
“This is becoming a pandemic of the unvaccinated,” Walensky said at a Covid-19 briefing Friday.
More than 97% of people getting hospitalized with Covid-19 now are unvaccinated, Walensky said.
And 99.5% of deaths are among the unvaccinated, US Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy said Sunday.
Getting people vaccinated as quickly as possible “is our fastest, most effective way out of this pandemic,” Murthy said.
California reports highest Covid-19 test positivity rate since winter surge
The surge in new cases in California — driven primarily by the highly contagious Delta variant — continues to swell, now reaching levels not seen since February when new cases were dropping after a huge winter spike.
More than 14,000 new coronavirus cases were reported Monday, driving the number of confirmed cases to 3,762,462. California’s Department of Public Health no longer reports new data on weekends, so Monday’s number reflects cases reported on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.
The state’s test positivity rate has skyrocketed almost 500% since the beginning of June, climbing to 4.1% on Monday. That rate is the highest the state has seen since February 17, state data shows, a substantial increase since its lowest point of 0.7% on June 7, just before the statewide reopening.
“This is a pandemic overwhelmingly and disproportionately of those that have not been vaccinated,” California Gov. Gavin Newsom said Monday.
The state is making an effort to refocus its vaccination push on small mobile clinics and additional outreach to unvaccinated subsets, Newsom said.
Among those are unhoused people, those living in rural communities, and those who he says have been deceived by misinformation.
About half of the state’s population is once again under mask mandates and recommendations, with four more central and northern California counties — Napa, Santa Cruz, San Benito and Monterey — issuing mask recommendations Monday.
Hospitals ‘are going to have real problems’ at this rate
At the University of Florida Health Jacksonville, doctors are seeing a sharper increase in Covid-19 patients now than during the January surge, said Chad Neilsen, director of infection prevention.
“We have doubled our number of Covid hospitalizations over the last week, and it’s a much more exponential increase in patients versus what we saw in January,” Neilsen said Monday.
“My greatest fear is that patients continue to pour in, and we’re unable to give them the care that we need because we don’t have staff or resources.”
As of Monday, Neilsen said the hospital had enough beds and supplies.
“But staffing shortages are really starting to affect not only us, but the rest of the hospital community here in Jacksonville,” he said. “If we don’t have staff to take care of patients, that’s when we’re going to have real problems.”
An official at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences also expressed concerns about the future of patient care if the rapid rise in Covid-19 patients doesn’t slow down.
On Thursday, Chancellor Cam Patterson said during a Twitter Q&A that hospitals are “full right now and cases are doubling every 10 days.”
“If that trend continues, there will be significant challenges in providing care for both Covid and non-Covid patients over the next two weeks,” Patterson said.
Pediatricians: Everyone over age 2 should wear masks in school
On Monday, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommended universal masking in schools for everyone over the age of 2, regardless of vaccination status, unless a medical or developmental condition prohibits wearing a mask.
The AAP cited several reasons, including the fact that children under 12 are not yet eligible for vaccination.
“There are many children and others who cannot be vaccinated,” said Dr. Sara Bode, chair-elect of the AAP Council on School Health Executive Committee.
“This is why it’s important to use every tool in our toolkit to safeguard children from COVID-19. Universal masking is one of those tools, and has been proven effective in protecting people against other respiratory diseases, as well. It’s also the most effective strategy to create consistent messages and expectations among students without the added burden of needing to monitor everyone’s vaccination status.”
According to a CNN analysis, at least nine states — Arkansas, Arizona, Georgia, Iowa, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Texas, Utah and Vermont — have enacted legislation that prohibits districts from requiring masks in schools. All nine states have Republican governors.
Some states — including Connecticut, Hawaii, New Mexico, New York, Virginia and Washington — follow the AAP guidance to require masks among K-thru-12 students regardless of their vaccination status.
Doctors say one important reason adults should get vaccinated is to protect children who are not yet eligible for the vaccine.
“Our kids who are not vaccinated, they depend on us to protect them from the spread of the virus. We are their shields,” US Surgeon General Dr. Vivel Murthy told CNN’s Anderson Cooper on Monday.
“And so even if you don’t want to do it for yourself, consider getting vaccinated to protect the children in your community. They are depending on us,” Murthy said.
Currently, Covid-19 vaccines are only authorized for children 12 and older, but studies are underway to test the safety and efficacy of vaccinating younger children.
With those pediatric trials, “thus far, things look good, but the final decision is going to be up to the FDA,” said Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.
“And I would imagine that likely will not happen until we get well into the winter, towards the end of this year.”
Delta variant sends younger people to the hospital
The director-general of the World Health Organization said the Delta variant is the most contagious strain of coronavirus identified.
The Delta variant is also sending younger and previously healthy people to hospitals — the vast majority of which have not been vaccinated, say doctors in several states suffering surges.
“This year’s virus is not last year’s virus,” said Dr. Catherine O’Neal, an infectious disease specialist at Our Lady of the Lake Regional Medical Center in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.
“It’s attacking our 40-year-olds. It’s attacking our parents and young grandparents. And it’s getting our kids,” O’Neal said. She said her Covid-19 unit now has more patients in their 20s than previously during the pandemic.
In the face of rampant misinformation about the virus and the vaccine, McClure urged people to use trusted sources and to “make sure people have good information.”
Misinformation “takes away our freedom,” Murthy said, adding that the inaccurate information inhibits people’s power to make educated decisions about the health of themselves and their families.
And with the virus’ disproportionately higher impact among people who aren’t vaccinated, the consequences can be severe.
“All this misinformation that’s floating around is having a real cost that can be measured in lives lost, and that is tragic,” Murthy said.
Trump administration official: Delta will likely hit those unprotected
Most Americans who are unprotected will likely contract the rapidly spreading Delta variant, said Dr. Scott Gottlieb, commissioner of the US Food and Drug Administration during the Trump administration.
“And for most people who get this Delta variant, it’s going to be the most serious virus that they get in their lifetime in terms of the risk of putting them in the hospital,” Gottlieb told CBS’ “Face the Nation” on Sunday.
Delta is the most transmissible Covid-19 variant yet, said Murthy and Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.
“This is a virus that has now shown us that it has a very strong capability of more efficiently spreading from person to person than the previous prototype viruses that we’ve experienced,” Fauci said Monday.
Fauci said vaccinated people are still protected “very well — to the tune of 90% or more — against hospitalizations, severe disease and deaths,” and that this has “held strong, regardless of where the study is — in the United States or in several foreign countries.”
“So although you’re dealing with a virus that because of this extreme capability of spreading from person to person, is causing more infections including breakthrough infections of vaccinated people, for those who are vaccinated, it’s still doing very well against severe disease,” he said.
“Unfortunately, we can’t say the same for unvaccinated people … we can expect among the unvaccinated hospitalizations and eventually, in some situations, deaths.”
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CNN’s Deidre McPhillips, Naomi Thomas, Leyla Santiago, Claudia Dominguez, Ben Tinker and Natasha Chen contributed to this report.