Just three states ― Florida, Texas and Missouri ― accounted for 40% of all new cases over the past week, White House COVID-19 response coordinator Jeffrey Zients said Thursday. All have comparatively low inoculation rates.
“The threat is now predominantly only to the unvaccinated,” Zients said.
One in five new cases was in Florida alone, for the second week in a row. The Sunshine State recently documented its highest daily number of new cases since late January, with 12,647 recorded on Wednesday, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Overall, states in the Northeast are doing the best job distributing the shots ― Vermont is approaching 70% of its population being fully vaccinated ― while the South and parts of the West struggle to convince people to get the jab. Texas and Missouri lag behind much of the country in vaccinations, with 43% and 40% of their respective populations fully inoculated. Florida is squarely in the middle, with 48% fully inoculated, according to CDC data.
In Alabama, which is also recording new cases at the same rate as it did in late January, Republican Gov. Kay Ivey declared Thursday that “it’s time to start blaming the unvaccinated folks, not the regular folks” for “letting us down.”
Ivey appeared frustrated when a reporter asked what could be done to encourage more Alabamans to get their shots, saying, “I don’t know. You tell me. Folks supposed to have common sense.”
The Biden administration said Thursday it would be sending an additional $100 million to rural health clinics to help support vaccination efforts; the administration sent $400 million to around 1,500 rural hospitals to increase testing.
Zients credited the effectiveness of the Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines ― all currently available under an emergency use authorization from the Food and Drug Administration ― for changing the course of the pandemic.
He noted one positive trend: In places where cases are increasing more rapidly than the national average, vaccination rates are also increasing more rapidly than average, namely in Arkansas, Florida, Louisiana, Missouri and Nevada.
“People in these states are feeling the impact of being unvaccinated and responding with action,” Zients said.
The vast majority of new infections, hospitalizations and deaths are now occurring in unvaccinated people; infectious disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci said earlier this month that more than 99% of recent deaths are among the unvaccinated.
Driving the surge is the delta variant of the coronavirus, which is even more transmissible than the original variant. It is believed to have evolved during unchecked COVID-19 spread in India. The more a virus spreads, the more opportunity it has to mutate ― potentially leading to more harmful versions.
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