Dr Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, on Thursday issued a stern warning about the spread of the delta strain of COVID-19, saying the variant is one of the “most infectious respiratory viruses” that scientists know.
The dire message comes amid the urgency from public health officials for Americans to get vaccinated. The CDC said earlier this week that cases of the delta strain now account for about 83% of new infections in the United States, and the majority of deaths from the disease are unvaccinated people.
The strain is much more transmissible than the alpha strain, or the initial version of COVID-19, and has led to an increase in the number of cases in all states across the country. The number of new cases has increased by nearly 250% since early July, and states with low vaccination rates, including Florida, Texas and Missouri, are experiencing some of the worst epidemics.
“Compared to the virus that we had initially circulating in the United States at the start of the pandemic, the delta variant is more aggressive and much more transmissible than strains that were circulating previously,” Walensky said at a press briefing. “It is one of the most infectious respiratory viruses that we know of and that I have seen in my 20 year career. ”
Vaccination remains the best defense against serious illness and death from COVID-19, even for people infected with the delta variant. But less than half of the nation is fully vaccinated, and the rise in new infections has prompted several counties to reinstate mask warrants in an attempt to stop the spread of transmission.
Walensky said last week that about 97% of people hospitalized with COVID-19 had not been vaccinated, describing the situation as an “unvaccinated pandemic.”
She added on Thursday that despite advances in immunization and a return to normalcy in many states, the country was “not out of the woods yet” and citizens still had to make thoughtful decisions to protect themselves and their families. families.
“We are at yet another pivotal moment in this pandemic, with a further increase in cases and some hospitals reaching capacity in some areas,” she said Thursday. “We must come together as one nation, united in our determination to protect our health, the health of our children, our community, our country and our future with the tools at our disposal. “
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