The so-called “Delta variant” of COVID-19, which was first reported in India, now accounts for most cases of the virus in the US, according to new data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
The agency estimated that 51.7 percent of cases reported in the US for the two weeks ending July 3 are attributable to the Delta variant, up from 30.4 percent of cases for the two-week period ending June 19. The next most common strain was the Alpha variant, first reported in the UK, which accounts for 28.7 percent of cases.
The Delta variant has been blamed for increasing COVID-19 case counts in places with low vaccination rates, many of them in the South and Midwest The federal government has sent so-called “surge response teams” to Colorado and Missouri, the latter of which leads the nation in new cases per capita and where hospital had to borrow ventilators over the Fourth of July weekend.
The jump in cases has moved some jurisdictions to backslide toward reimposing restrictions from the height of the pandemic. Health officials in Los Angeles County as well as the St. Louis area now recommend that people wear masks in indoor public places, regardless of their vaccination status.
The increase is reflected in the seven-day average of new cases reported to the CDC, which had ticked up to 13,859 as of Tuesday from a low of 11,378 on June 20. The number of COVID-related hospitalizations stood at 12,419 for the week ending Monday, up from 12,012 for the previous week.
More encouragingly, the seven-day average of COVID deaths has declined to below 200 per day from a peak of more than 3,600 per day in mid-January.
Last week, vaccine makers Moderna and Johnson & Johnson released early data showing that their vaccine was effective against the Delta variant, while CDC Director Rochelle Walensky told NBC News that fully vaccinated Americans were “safe from the variants that are circulating here in the United States.”
A separate study published in the journal Nature suggested mRNA vaccines produced by Moderna and Pfizer could provide “persistent” protection against COVID-19 for years — provided the virus doesn’t mutate too much beyond its current forms.
With Post wires