CDC director warns of ‘pandemic on unvaccinated’ as cases rise

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Director Rochelle WalenskyRochelle WalenskyOvernight Health Care: New COVID-19 cases rise 94 percent in two weeks The Nurses ‘Association urges CDC to bring universal mask guidelines back Texas sues over law allowing citizens to enforce’ fetal heart rhythm ‘abortion, bans US largest registered nurses’ association calls on CDC to bring back universal mask guidelines. Need a vaccine booster and other questions swirling around COVID MORE warned of rising cases Friday, saying COVID-19 is “becoming a pandemic in the unvaccinated” and that vaccinated people are protected from serious illness.

The highly transmissible delta variant promotes expanding outbreaks, but they are centered in parts of the country with lower vaccination rates.

“This is becoming a pandemic for the unvaccinated,” Walensky said during a White House press briefing. “We are seeing outbreaks of cases in parts of the country that have low vaccination coverage because unvaccinated people are at risk.”

The country is averaging about 26,000 cases a day, nearly a 70 percent increase from the previous seven-day average, Walensky said. Admissions are also up to approx. 2,790 a day, an increase of 36 percent from the previous week, and deaths have increased by 26 percent to 211 a day.

But almost all hospitalizations and deaths are among unvaccinated people. Walensky said 97 percent of the people who enter the hospital with COVID-19 are not vaccinated.

“The good news is that if you are fully vaccinated, you are protected against severe COVID, hospitalization and death and are even protected against the known variants, including the delta variant circulating in this country,” Walensky said.

“If you are not vaccinated, you are still at risk,” she added.

Experts say they do not expect increases in the virus as high as previously in the pandemic because much of the country is now vaccinated. However, there could be localized increases in areas with low vaccination rates.

States with the worst current outbreaks, including Arkansas, Missouri, Florida and Nevada, have relatively low vaccination rates and hover around 50 percent of the population with at least one dose, according to data from COVID Act Now tracking.

These numbers compare to vaccination rates above 70 percent in Vermont and Massachusetts, states that are doing much better.

Walensky said local officials may want to consider mask orders in parts of the country with low vaccination rates, but indicated the decisions will be local. The national CDC guidelines for masks have not changed – those that are fully vaccinated are protected and do not need to wear masks in most settings, except in places such as aircraft.

“If you have low vaccination and high rates, I would say that local politicians might consider whether masking at that point will be something that will be beneficial to their community until they scale their vaccination rates,” Walensky said.

But the overall message was still to be vaccinated, a point that is harder to drive home now that the most avid Americans have already gotten the jab and many of the about 30 percent of adults who remain unvaccinated are resistant.

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“Almost any death we now see from COVID-19 could have been prevented,” he said.

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