Rochelle Walensky, CDC head, says rise in COVID variant cases is 'pandemic of the unvaccinated'

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The highly infectious COVID-19 delta variant is becoming a “pandemic of the unvaccinated,” a top U.S. health official said Friday.

More than 33,000 new COVID-19 cases were reported Thursday and the most recent seven-day average of new cases is 26,3000, a 70% increase.

Average daily deaths jumped 26% to 211, a surprising surge because deaths had appeared to be declining in recent weeks, according to Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Dr. Walensky said during a White House briefing that the increase in hospitalizations and deaths are occurring in areas of the country with low vaccination rates.

“There is a message that is crystal clear: this is becoming a pandemic of the unvaccinated,” she said. “We are seeing outbreaks of cases in parts of the country that have low vaccination coverage because unvaccinated people are at risk.”

While numbers have been dropping since January, when the U.S. averaged nearly 200,000 new cases per day, Dr. Walensky warned that the delta variant will not slow down among counties and states with low vaccination rates.

“Our biggest concern is that we are going to continue to see preventable cases, hospitalizations and, sadly, deaths, among the unvaccinated,” she said. “If you are not vaccinated, you remain at risk.”

She said the new cases were “preventable” because of the vaccines available.

Roughy 160 million Americans, about 48.9 % of the population, are fully vaccinated, according to the CDC.

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