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As COVID-19 cases rise, ‘this is becoming a pandemic of the unvaccinated,’ CDC director says

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky.Greg Nash/Associated Press

As cases, hospitalizations, and deaths rise in the United States, the chief of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Friday that the latest COVID-19 outbreaks are largely among unvaccinated people and in communities where vaccination rates are low.

“This is becoming a pandemic of the unvaccinated,” Dr. Rochelle Walensky said during a White House COVID-19 briefing Friday morning.

“We are seeing outbreaks of cases in parts of the country that have low vaccination coverage because unvaccinated people are at risk, and communities that are fully vaccinated are generally faring well,” Walensky said.

Walensky added that the national seven-day average of COVID-19 cases is about 26,300 per day, an increase of about 70 percent from the previous seven-day average; hospitalizations are up about 36 percent from the previous seven-day period; and deaths have risen by 26 percent.

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Those who have been vaccinated are protected from severe COVID-19, hospitalization, and death, including against the Delta variant, Walensky said.

“Our biggest concern is that we are going to continue to see preventable cases, hospitalizations, and sadly, deaths among the unvaccinated,” she said.

White House COVID-19 coordinator Jeff Zients said cases are expected to increase in the coming weeks because the virus is spreading in communities with lower vaccination rates. Four states accounted for more than 40 percent of new cases in the past week, with 1 in 5 cases coming from Florida.

But Zients said there are signs that increased cases are driving more people in to get vaccinated. Louisiana, Missouri, and Nevada had a higher rate of new vaccinations compared to the national average, Zients said.

Zients reiterated guidance from the CDC and Food and Drug Administration that fully vaccinated Americans do not need a booster shot, but officials are continuing to evaluate whether one will be needed in the future.

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“Independent and rigorous scientific CDC and FDA processes will determine if and when boosters are needed, and who might need a booster shot,” Zients said. “This is a question that they’re continually evaluating. We are ready for whatever the science tells us. We’ve secured enough vaccine supply, and if needed we will ensure Americans who might need a booster shot are able to get it quickly and easily.”

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s chief infectious disease expert, said the Delta variant now makes up more than 50 percent of cases in the United States, and in some parts of the country, more than 70 percent.

“The bottom line is we are dealing with a formidable variant in the Delta variant as reflected by the data that Dr. Walensky told you, and the extreme vulnerability of people who are not vaccinated, which will account for infections, hospitalizations, and ultimately deaths,” he said. “And so the message loud and clear that we need to reiterate is that these vaccines continue strong protection against SARS-CoV-2, including the Delta variant.”


Amanda Kaufman can be reached at amanda.kaufman@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @amandakauf1.