More people in states with high COVID-19 case rates are getting vaccinated against the virus, the head of the White House unit in charge of countering the pandemic said Monday.
“The eight states with the highest current case rates have seen an average increase of 171 percent in the number of people newly vaccinated each day over the past three weeks,” White House COVID-19 Response Coordinator Jeff Zients told a virtual briefing.
“Louisiana has seen a 302 percent increase in the average number of newly vaccinated per day,” Zients added. “Mississippi, 250 percent. Alabama, 215 percent, and Arkansas, 206 percent. This increase in vaccination rates in states that have been lagging is a positive trend. Americans are seeing the risk and impact of being unvaccinated, and responding with action, and that’s what it’s going to take to get us out of this pandemic.”
Despite the progress, Zients noted that a third of all new cases in the US this past week were recorded in Florida and Texas, where Republican governors have sought to limit the scope of mask mandates — or, in Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s case, outlaw them altogether.
The briefing with Zients, White House chief medical adviser Dr. Anthony Fauci and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky was held on the same day the Biden administration announced that 70 percent of US adults had received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. The White House had set July 4 as the deadline to reach that milestone, but slowing vaccination rates sank any chance that goal would be reached.
Zients also announced that 90 percent of Americans 65 and older, a population of more than 49 million Americans, had received at least one vaccine dose.
“These are significant milestones in our fight against the virus,” he said, later adding: “Americans are seeing the risk and impact of being unvaccinated, and responding with action, and that’s what it’s going to take to get us out of this pandemic.”
Walensky also defended the CDC’s guidance recommending indoor mask mandates regardless of vaccination status, in areas of “substantial” or “high” coronavirus transmission.
“While we desperately want to be done with this pandemic, COVID-19 is clearly not done with us,” Walensky said. “And so, our battle must last a little longer.”
The CDC director added that data from an outbreak in Provincetown, Mass. over the July 4 holiday, as well as other studies, confirmed the transmissibility of the Delta variant, which was first located in India last year.
“If you get sick with the Alpha variant [COVID-19’s original strain], you could infect about two other unvaccinated people,” she said. “If you get sick with the Delta variant, we estimate that you could infect about five other unvaccinated people — more than twice as many as the original strain.”
Currently, nearly 80 percent of all US counties are experiencing “substantial” or “high” levels of COVID-19 transmission, defined by the CDC as at least 50 cases per 100,000 people over the previous seven days.