Nationwide COVID-19 infections have surpassed last summer's peak, White House officials said Monday, but vaccination rates are increasing in states with some of the highest COVID-19 infection rates.
"In the states with the highest case rates, daily vaccination rates have more than doubled," White House coronavirus response coordinator Jeff ZientsJeff ZientsUS to buy hundreds of millions more vaccine doses for the world: report Employers scramble to secure vaccine verification systems Biden steps into legal fight with vaccine mandates MORE said in a press briefing.
For example, Zients said Louisiana has seen a 302 percent increase in the average number of newly vaccinated per day, while Mississippi has increased 250 percent, Alabama has increased 215 percent and Arkansas has increased 206 percent.
"This increase in vaccination rates in states that have been lagging is a positive trend. Americans are seeing the risk and impact of being unvaccinated and responding with action. And that's what it's going to take to get us out of this pandemic," Zients said.
Nationwide, 3 million Americans have gotten their first shot over the past seven days, the highest since July 4.
But infections are still rapidly increasing.
Over the weekend, the seven-day moving average of daily new COVID-19 cases was about 72,000 per day, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Director Rochelle WalenskyRochelle WalenskyFDA panel endorses COVID-19 booster shots for older Americans, rejects widespread use Watch live: White House COVID-19 response team holds briefing The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by National Industries for the Blind - Tight security for Capitol rally; Biden agenda slows MORE said, a number higher than the peak from last summer, which was well before any authorized vaccines were available.
At that time, the nation was reporting about 68,700 new cases per day, according to the CDC. Cases reached record highs in the fall and winter months that followed.
The vaccination campaign has slowed compared to the spring months, as hesitancy and outright resistance to the vaccine have created a major obstacle for public health officials.
According to Zients, one out of three new COVID-19 cases occurred in Florida and Texas over the past week. About 17 percent of cases came from seven states with low vaccination rates, he added.
Walensky and chief White House medical adviser Anthony FauciAnthony FauciWatch live: White House COVID-19 response team holds briefing Intercept reporters discuss gain-of-function research The Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by Facebook - DC prepares for Saturday of festivals & Jan. 6 demonstration MORE noted that the vast majority of people who are testing positive are not vaccinated and "breakthrough" infections are rare.
"This remains a pandemic of the unvaccinated where the vast majority of spread in this country is among those who are unvaccinated," Walensky said.
The delta variant spreads much more easily among unvaccinated people than the original alpha variant. Walensky said an unvaccinated person who is infected with the delta variant could infect as many as five other unvaccinated people, more than twice as many as the original strain.
The extremely high viral loads carried by anyone who is infected are concerning, Walensky said, but the risks of a vaccinated person spreading to another vaccinated person are extremely low, and if it does happen, vaccination will prevent serious illness and hospitalization.
"I want to be clear: While vaccinated people can spread the virus if they get a breakthrough infection, the odds of them getting sick in the first place are far lower than those who are unvaccinated. And in fact, places with more vaccination generally have less disease," Walensky said.