WASHINGTON – The director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warned Thursday that the United States was “not yet out of the woods” with the pandemic and was again at a “key point” when the highly contagious Delta variant tore through unvaccinated Municipalities.
Just weeks after President Biden threw a party on July 4th on the South Lawn of the White House to declare independence from the virus, the director named Dr. Rochelle P. Walensky the now dominant variant “one of the most contagious respiratory viruses”. Known to scientists.
The renewed urgency within the administration was directed at tens of millions of people who have not yet been vaccinated and are therefore most likely to be infected and become ill. Her grim message came at a time of growing fear and confusion, especially among parents of young children who are still unsuitable for the syringe. And it underscored how quickly the recent surge in the pandemic had unsettled Americans, who had begun to believe the worst was over and prompted politicians and public health officials to recalibrate their responses.
“This is like the moment in horror movies when you think the horror is over and the credits roll,” said Rep. Jamie Raskin, Democrat of Maryland. “And everything starts all over again.”
The decision of millions to reject the vaccine had the ramifications health officials predicted: the number of new cases in the country has increased nearly 250 percent since the beginning of the month, with an average of more than 41,000 infections diagnosed each day in the last week – versus 12,000.
The disease caused by the virus kills about 250 people each day – far fewer than during the peak period last year, but still 42 percent more than two weeks ago. More than 97 percent of hospital patients are unvaccinated, said Dr. Walensky last week.
The public health crisis is particularly acute in parts of the country where vaccination rates are lowest. In Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida, the number of new cases every day has increased more than 200 percent in the past two weeks, leading almost entirely to new hospital admissions and deaths among the unvaccinated. Intensive care units are being filled or replenished in southern Missouri and northern Arkansas.
The turnaround is forcing both political parties in Washington to grapple – hitherto hesitantly and hesitantly – with the question of what tone they should use, what guidance they should give, and what changes they need to make in order to appeal to the latest generation of the worst public face health crisis in a century.
The White House on Thursday announced new grants to local health departments for vaccines and stepped up testing in rural communities, despite administrative officials saying they would “make further progress in our fight against the virus” and insisted it was not necessary to do their basic Rethink measures strategy. Although reports of so-called breakthrough infections in vaccinated people are increasing, they remain relatively rare and those that lead to serious illness, hospitalization, or death are particularly rare.
But the rise in infections and hospitalizations in some parts of the country, even if mostly limited to people who have chosen not to get vaccinated, has presented Mr Biden with an evolving challenge that threatens economic recovery and his own political standing could.
The stock market is shaky. His administration is under renewed pressure to reintroduce mask mandates, as Los Angeles County did this week. And the president’s top aides are on the defensive in their strategy to keep the pandemic in check again.
“It’s frustrating,” Mr. Biden admitted Wednesday night during a town hall event on CNN.
The rise of the variant could also change the equation for some Republicans who see many of their own constituents hospitalized – or worse. Louisiana Rep. Steve Scalise, the No. 2 Republican in the House of Representatives, received his first shot on Sunday, noting a “further spike” in the pandemic. Fox News host Sean Hannity said on his show, “I believe in the science of vaccination.”
On Capitol Hill, House Republican leaders and doctors were reluctant to signal their support for vaccinations Thursday, even though that support was mixed.
“If you are at risk you should get this vaccine,” Maryland doctor Andy Harris said, adding, “We urge all Americans to speak to their doctors about the risks of Covid and to speak to their doctors about the benefits get vaccinated and then make a decision. “
Republican Rep. Greg Murphy, North Carolina, said, “This vaccine is a medicine and, like any other medicine, there are side effects and this is a personal choice.”
July 24, 2021 at 11:34 a.m. ET
Their press conference was promoted as an attempt to “discuss the need for vaccination for individuals”. But it was dominated by efforts to spread an unproven theory that the Chinese released a virulent, man-made virus in the world and allegations that the Democrats were covering it up.
The vaccines work to protect those who have been injected from serious danger, but charts tracking the pandemic, which has been declining for months – heralded by Mr Biden as evidence that his approach has worked – are going up sharply.
The rapid momentum of the new variant makes people wonder whether they have to withdraw from restaurants, cinemas, bars, sporting events and their offices. What seemed like clear – and mostly positive – decisions just a few days ago now seems muddy.
White House officials on Thursday turned down questions about whether vaccinated people should return to wearing masks indoors, as Los Angeles County health officials ordered days ago. Jeffrey D. Zients, the White House’s coronavirus coordinator, just said that the CDC’s current guidelines don’t require it.
“It is up to each and every American to make their own contribution,” he said. “We know that every vaccination route is different. We are ready to have more Americans vaccinated anytime, anywhere. “
Amid the concern, one thing is clear: the variant has once again turned hopes of an end to the pandemic on its head and sparked a new fear on the horizon – that a much-anticipated return to work and school could be disrupted after much of the country’s nearly 18 Months of seclusion from home.
“I’m concerned about the fall,” said Lauren Underwood MP, an Illinois Democrat and registered nurse. “August will be tough. It’s going to be tough back to school. We will see more sickness and more death. “
Andy Slavitt, a public health expert who recently left the Biden White House’s coronavirus response team, said the government will not consider mandating vaccinations for the military or federal workers until the Food and Drug Administration clears the coronavirus – Vaccines that are now available have been given permanent authorization under emergency use authorization.
Understand the state of vaccine mandates in the United States
But, he said, final approval of the Pfizer vaccine would be “within weeks to a few months”. As soon as that happens, he said, “it should all be on the table and I can tell you that is the attitude in the White House.”
Public school systems could also require vaccinations at this point, just as they would require vaccinations against polio, measles, mumps, and rubella – with a few exceptions for religious or health reasons. That would quickly drive up vaccination rates.
Aside from mandates, there are few obvious policy changes as Congress has already inundated health officials with funding for vaccination campaigns and making vaccines widely available. Ami Bera, a Democrat from California, who is a doctor, suggested that the Biden government launch a public advertising campaign modeled on smoking cessation campaigns in which a dying man once smoked through his windpipe.
“Let’s do an ad with a 20 year old man who says, ‘I didn’t take it seriously. I got it and killed my grandmother, ”he said.
Republicans have emphasized their refusal to go backwards.
“You don’t have to shut things down,” said Kansas Senator Roger Marshall, a doctor. “Look, as far as I know, no child under the age of 18 has died of Covid unless they also had a serious illness.”
American child deaths are extremely low – 346 on July 15 – but some of them most likely had no underlying health conditions.
Even the Republicans have so far resisted sounding the alarm in the conservative population. The Kaiser Family Foundation reported in late June that 86 percent of Democrats had at least one shot, compared to 52 percent of Republicans.
Policy makers feel paralyzed, largely because once Americans resume life without masks and other restrictions, it will be difficult to return. Vaccination and masking requirements would almost certainly trigger a violent backlash, but could also save lives.
“We all have this psychology, well, it’s over, but intellectually we know it’s not over yet,” said Maryland Rep. Steny H. Hoyer, the Majority Leader. He asked, “How do we get a society that had the tremendous feeling of being locked in a mask, then being free again, going back?”