Nationwide coronavirus cases, hospitalizations and deaths are increasing, while Florida alone accounted for one in five of all new infections last week.
The head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Friday warned that COVID-19 is becoming a “pandemic of the unvaccinated.”
CDC Director Rochelle Walensky said that cases, hospitalizations and deaths from the coronavirus are increasing nationwide, adding that over 97% of new hospitalizations are in patients who are unvaccinated.
“There is a clear message that is coming through,” Walensky said at a press briefing. “This is becoming a pandemic of the unvaccinated. 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.”
The five states with the highest infection rates are Arkansas, Florida, Louisiana, Missouri and Nevada. Florida alone accounted for one in five of all new cases in the past week. But those states are also seeing a higher rate of new vaccinations compared to the national average, according to Jeff Zients, the White House COVID-19 response coordinator.
Zients said that as the now-dominant delta variant spreads, cases are expected to increase in the coming weeks.
“As the more transmissible delta variant continues to spread across the country, we will likely continue to experience an increase in [COVID-19] cases in the weeks ahead with these cases concentrated in communities with lower vaccination rates,” Zients said.
But Walensky added that the U.S. is still in a “far better position” than it was during previous coronavirus outbreaks. However, increased transmission is “giving us all a reason to double down and get more people vaccinated.”
“Our biggest concern is that we are going to continue to see preventable cases, hospitalizations and sadly deaths among the unvaccinated,” she said.
Officials also reiterated that COVID-19 vaccine booster shots are not currently needed, but Zients said that the U.S. has secured enough vaccine supply that “if needed, we will ensure Americans who might need a booster shot are able to get it quickly and easily.”
The CDC’s vaccine advisory committee will meet next week to discuss the idea of giving additional vaccine doses to immunocompromised individuals. But Walensky said that situation differs from giving boosters to the general population.
“With regard to the immunosuppressed population, this is a little bit of a different scenario where we might be concerned that in fact they didn’t get full protection from their initial two doses, so we will be looking at a third prime dose in that situation,” she said.