New COVID-19 infections hit six-month high

The United States is averaging more than 100,000 new COVID-19 cases a day, the highest numbers since February, before vaccines became widely available.

According to figures analyzed by Our World in Data, COVID-19 cases have averaged more than 100,000 for three days in a row, up about 35 percent over the past week.

Infections have been rising sharply since just after July 4, a spike attributable to the delta variant of the coronavirus.  

In late June, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the seven-day moving average of reported cases was around 12,000. On July 27, the seven-day moving average of cases reached more than 60,000. 

Hospitalizations have also spiked in the past week, though there has been a clear disparity between states that have large numbers of people vaccinated and those that don’t.

“Not surprisingly, the country is remarkably heterogeneous,” CDC Director Rochelle Walensky said Monday during a podcast with former Sen. Bill Frist (R-Tenn.). 

The CDC has emphasized that the spike in cases and hospitalizations is occurring largely among the unvaccinated. 

“In places that are well vaccinated, we have quite good protection and we don’t have a lot of surge. In places that are less well vaccinated, this virus is an opportunist and it has taken hold in those places in particular,” Walensky said.

Walensky added that more than 80 percent of the counties with the highest rate of disease have the least amount of vaccination. 

Florida and Louisiana in particular have emerged as epicenters of infection, with each setting new seven-day records of infections as hospitals fill up. 

As of Sunday, Florida was averaging more than 19,000 cases a day, with nearly 14,000 hospitalized patients. Louisiana reported more than 12,000 new confirmed cases over the weekend, bringing the total number of cases over the past week to an all-time high of more than 28,000.

The situation is also dire in Mississippi, where the state’s top health official said Monday there are no beds available in intensive care units.

Despite the rising cases, vaccination rates have been creeping upward. More than 50 percent of the total U.S. population, and about 59 percent of the eligible population, are fully vaccinated. 

According to a Washington Post analysis, the nation averaged slightly more than 715,000 doses per day over the past week, an increase over the prior week but still far less than the mid-April peak of more than 3 million doses a day.

The racial and ethnic gaps that have persisted throughout the pandemic are also slowly narrowing. 

According to data posted by the CDC on Monday, more than 1 million Hispanic/Latino people said they got at least a first vaccine dose in the past two weeks, as well as more than 640,000 Black people.

Nationwide, about 32 percent of Hispanic people are fully vaccinated, compared to about 25 percent of Black people and 34 percent of white people.

Research by the Kaiser Family Foundation found that between July 19 and August 2, Black and Hispanic people experienced a slightly larger increase in vaccination rates compared to white and Asian people.

The Biden administration is also touting efforts by community health centers to get more minorities vaccinated. According to federal data released Monday, federally funded community health centers have administered nearly 14 million vaccines, with nearly 9 million going to minorities.

The Department of Health and Human Services gave the nation’s roughly 1,400 community health centers a $7 billion infusion under the American Rescue Plan to expand access to coronavirus vaccines, testing and treatment. 

Administration officials have said they see community health centers as central to President Biden’s commitment to ensuring equity and access in the COVID-19 response and vaccination program.

“After quickly transitioning from providing in-person primary care to offering telehealth services, they continue to test, vaccinate, and act as lifelines to communities disproportionately hit by COVID-19,” Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra said in a statement.

“No matter a person’s circumstance, health care must be in reach. I thank the nation’s nearly 1,400 health centers and their staff for keeping our families, particularly vulnerable communities, healthy.”

More than 90 percent of the health centers’ patients live at or below 200 percent of the federal poverty guidelines, and more than 60 percent are racial or ethnic minorities, the administration said.

Tags community health centers Coronavirus coronavirus vaccines COVID-19 COVID-19 infections Joe Biden Racial disparities Rochelle Walensky Xavier Becerra
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