Florida and Texas lead US COVID-19 surge

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Over the weekend, COVID-19 cases continued to surge across the country with Florida experiencing record daily highs of new cases and hospitalizations. The current surge of virus activity is due to the highly transmissible Delta (B1617.2) variant.

Yesterday the country reported 25,141 new COVID-19 cases, and 71 deaths, according to the Johns Hopkins COVID-19 tracker. In total, America has confirmed 35,020,438 COVID-19 cases, including 613,254 deaths.

The 7-day average of new daily COVID-19 cases is 78,472, according to data from the Washington Post. New daily cases rose 54.2% over the past week, while deaths rose by 31.6% and hospitalizations by 42.2%.

The outbreak is concentrated in areas with low vaccination coverage. Today Jeff Zients, the head of the White House COVID-19 response said 1 in 3 cases nationwide occurred in Florida or Texas this week.

The 7-day average of new daily cases is now higher than the peak of last summer.

"While we desperately want to be done with the pandemic, COVID-19 is not done with us," Rochelle Walensky, MD, MPH, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said at a White House briefing. "Our battle must last longer. This is hard this is heavy, we are in this together."

Florida sets new records

In Florida, hospitalizations are now catching up after a month of increasing cases. The state had 10,207 people hospitalized with confirmed COVID-19 yesterday, the highest number the state has reported since the pandemic began, according to the Associated Press. Florida is now leading the nation in per capita hospitalizations for COVID-19.

The state's previous record was in Jul 23, 2020, well before COVID-19 vaccines, when 10,170 Floridians were hospitalized. Florida is now averaging 1,525 adult hospitalizations a day, and 35 daily pediatric hospitalizations.

On Saturday the state recorded 21,683 new cases of COVID-19, the state's highest one-day total since the start of the pandemic, the AP said.

Despite the rise in case activity, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed an executive order this weekend banning schools from issuing mask mandates. In the mandate, DeSantis said it is unclear from the science if masks protect children from the virus and said it is a parent's choice to determine if a student should be masked.

Nation's biggest retailers revisit masks

Target, Kroger, and Walmart are once again revisiting mask policies in light of the Delta surge. Kroger and Target stopped short of requiring masks upon entry for customers, but said they were highly recommended. Target also said employees in communities with high transmission must once again wear masks.

Walmart also announced a similar policy for employees. Walmart also said it will require all home office workers as well as management-level staff members who travel to be vaccinated by Oct 4.

As more businesses start to consider vaccination mandates, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is under increasing pressure to grant full approval to COVID-19 vaccines according to the Wall Street Journal.

And the mayors of two of the nation's biggest cities, Chicago and New York, are urging residents to get vaccinated and voluntarily wear a mask indoors but will not issues mask mandates.

Breakthrough infections in vaccinated account for less than 1% of cases

Using data from the CDC, a Kaiser Family Foundation analysis now suggests less than 1% of fully vaccinated people are experiencing breakthrough infections.

As of Jul 26, the CDC recorded 6,239 hospitalizations and 1,263 deaths among vaccinated people. This means less than 0.004% of fully vaccinated people had a breakthrough case that required hospitalization, and less than 0.001% of fully vaccinated people died from breakthrough infections.

The news is reassuring after a report last week from the CDC which showed vaccinated people vacationing in Massachusetts were part of an outbreak of COVID-19 cases and were as infectious as unvaccinated people.

Also late last week, the CDC published safety data concerning the use of the Pfizer vaccine among 12- to 17-year-olds. As of Jul 16, 2021, 8.9 million US children aged 12 to 17 had received the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, and the CDC received 9,246 reports in this age-group. According to the CDC, 90.7% of these were for nonserious adverse events and 9.3% were for serious adverse events, including myocarditis (4.3%).

Other US developments

  • South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham said on Twitter that he has COVID-19. He was vaccinated but was tested after developing flu-like symptoms over the weekend.

  • FDA has authorized Regeneron monoclonal antibodies for postexposure COVID prophylaxis, but the agency emphasizes that it isn't a substitute for vaccination.

  • US health officials are expressing concern over a simultaneous rise in Delta variant infections and cases of respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), the New York Times reports. Cases of RSV have risen gradually since June.

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