The average U.S. daily death toll from COVID-19 over the past seven days surpassed 2,000 this weekend, the first time since March 1 that deaths have been so high, according to a New York Times database.
Texas and Florida, two of the hardest-hit states in the country, account for more than 30% of those deaths: Florida, where 56% of the population is vaccinated, averages about 353 deaths a day, and Texas, where 50% of the population is vaccinated, averages about 286 deaths a day. In the United States as a whole, 54% of all people are vaccinated.
Hot spots continue to speckle the map of the country, many of them in line with low vaccination rates but others in areas where vaccinations are among the highest. Vermont, for example, has a vaccination rate of 69% and reported more coronavirus cases in the past week than in any other seven-day period, thought it still has the fewest cases in the country.
As of Saturday, Guam, where 64% are vaccinated, and Idaho, where 41% are vaccinated, reported more deaths in the previous week than in any other seven-day period.
These surges, according to public health leaders, are tied to the highly transmissible delta variant. “The war has changed,” the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said in July about the variant, comparing its contagiousness to that of chickenpox. And while the vaccines provide strong protection against severe illness from delta, there are still reports of breakthrough infections, and the variant continues to vex scientists and pandemic strategists.
Other numbers appear to be plateauing, or even inching lower. New hospitalizations and new cases have started to tick slowly downward but remain alarmingly high, intensifying the already fierce debate around booster shots. A key advisory panel to the Food and Drug Administration on Friday recommended that people over 65 or at high risk of developing COVID who had been inoculated with the Pfizer vaccine get a booster dose.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, appearing on the Sunday talk shows, tried to give some context for the shifting guidance and cautioned against expecting uniformity. “In real time, more and more data are accumulating,” he said on the ABC program “This Week.” “There will be a continual reexamination of that data, and potential modification of recommendations.”