The United States reached a milestone of getting at least one coronavirus vaccine dose to 70% of adults on Monday, almost a month after President Joe Biden’s original July 4 goal.
The news came as the highly contagious delta variant is driving a coronavirus surge, with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Friday reporting more than 100,000 daily cases. It was a number not seen since February, when vaccines were not widely available.
Biden called on more Americans to get the shot, tweeting Monday afternoon that the nation was “prepared to deal with the surge in COVID-19 cases like never before.”
“Unlike a year ago, we have the ability to save lives and keep our economy growing,” he wrote. “We know we can dramatically lower the cases in the country. We can do this. Get vaccinated.”
New daily reported deaths have gone up by 33% and hospitalizations by 46% on average in the last seven days compared to the week before, according to CDC data.
Although forecasts are tricky and cannot account for new variants, disease experts predict as many as 140,000 to 300,000 cases a day in the United States come August, likely fueled by the more transmissible delta variant and the widespread resumption of normal activities.
The virus is infecting mostly unvaccinated people, though breakthrough cases in vaccinated people are emerging, too.
For now, the rising case numbers seem to be driving vaccine uptake.
Cyrus Shahpar, White House covid-19 data director, announced on Twitter that the country had hit the 70% mark. The seven-day average of newly vaccinated people, 441,000, was the highest in more than a month, he added.
“Let’s continue working to get more eligible vaccinated!” Shahpar wrote.
Overall, about 189.9 million people – or 57% of the total U.S. population – have received at least one dose of vaccine, according to latest figures from the CDC. About 163.9 million people, or 49% of the total U.S. population, have now been fully vaccinated.
The CDC also reported that as of July 26, there were 6,587 coronavirus cases that resulted in hospitalizations or death among fully vaccinated people – including 1,263 deaths – a small fraction of the people fully vaccinated against the disease.
The CDC has not announced the total number of breakthrough cases since April, when it announced more than 10,000 cases among the fully vaccinated. Meanwhile, one recent hot spot was found to be Provincetown, at the tip of Cape Cod, a tourist destination known for its party scene over July Fourth weekend. A scientific analysis published Friday found that three-quarters of the people infected during an outbreak fueled by the delta variant there were fully vaccinated.
Bloomberg News, in its own analysis, looked at data from 35 states and identified 111,748 breakthrough coronavirus cases through the end of July.
Anthony Fauci, the White House’s chief medical adviser, warned that more “pain and suffering” were on the horizon during an interview Sunday on ABC’s “This Week.”
“Things are going to get worse,” he said, but added that further lockdowns in the country remained unlikely.
Already the epicenter of the U.S. outbreak, Florida continued to be an area of concern after it broke its own previous record for hospitalizations, on Sunday. The state recorded just over 10,200 people hospitalized with confirmed covid-19 cases, according to data reported to the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, a day after it recorded its highest one-day total cases since the start of the pandemic.
“I’m deeply concerned about what’s happening in Florida,” Surgeon General Vivek Murthy said Monday on “CBS This Morning.”
Over 10 million people have been fully vaccinated in Florida, about 50% of the population as of Sunday, according to the Johns Hopkins University vaccine tracker.
Parents are increasingly concerned about possible disruption to the third straight academic year due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Murthy said the virus was constantly throwing “curveballs our way” but added that the “vaccine is saving lives,” predicting that more schools and businesses would introduce vaccine requirements. “We just gotta keep going,” Murthy said.
Some Americans are lamenting their previous reluctance to get a vaccine.
Micheal Freedy, a 39-year-old father of five, died Thursday after contracting the virus and being admitted into intensive care in July. His fiancee, Jessica DuPreez, 37, told The Washington Post that Freedy had not been opposed to vaccination but like many Americans wanted to wait to learn more about how people reacted to the vaccines.
“I should have gotten the damn vaccine,” Freedy texted DuPreez amid his battle with covid-19.
Now bereaved, DuPreez has a simple message for the nation: Get the vaccine.
This sentiment was echoed by Tennessee state Rep. David Byrd, a Republican who went from attending unmasked gatherings to a harrowing struggle with coronavirus that included 55 days on a ventilator.
He, too, urged Americans to get vaccinated. “It is a disease that wants to kill us,” Byrd, 63, said in a statement, adding that his family had at least once begun planning for his funeral.
Meanwhile, some who have lost loved ones to the virus have been pushing Congress to acknowledge the deaths. They urged financial support for the children of covid-19 victims, research on long-haul cases and, most immediately, a day of national remembrance for the nation’s more than 600,000 fatalities.
But a three-day lobbying blitz in late July didn’t net the longed-for results. The group picked up no new sponsors for the covid memorial day resolution. “You can’t help but be bitter when you look at how many people have died and how little that seems to matter,” said Laura Jackson, whose husband died from the virus. She added: “What’s so hard about saying yes to a day that honors those who died?”
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The Washington Post’s Kate Brady and Stefano Pitrelli contributed to this story.