Today during a White House press briefing, Jeff Zients, White House COVID-19 coordinator, said 180 million Americans now have had at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, and White House Chief Medical Advisor Anthony Fauci, MD, reassured the country that the three vaccines with emergency use authorization in the United States are likely effective against the Delta (B1617.2) variant.
"Going into the Fourth of July holiday weekend, Americans have good reason to celebrate," Zients said, explaining that 67% of adults have at least one shot, 3% short of President Joe Biden's goal of 70% of Americans ages 18 and up having at least one dose.
Zients said that this weekend marks the first time Americans will be back together—not just with family or close friends—but with the larger community for parades, fireworks, and celebrations.
Rochelle Walensky, MD, MPH, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said the agency continues to see overall low numbers of hospitalizations, cases, and deaths, but people remain vulnerable in communities where most residents are unvaccinated.
Walensky said that, in 1,000 US counties, 30% or less of residents are vaccinated. It's these communities that will be hardest hit by the Delta variant, which is already causing 40% to 50% of cases in some parts of the country and will likely eclipse the Alpha variant as the dominant US strain by the end of the month.
In those communities, Zients said the Biden administration will now deploy surge response teams, who will help with testing and treatments during an outbreak.
Cases up 10% from last week
The 7-day average of new cases this week is 12,600. Though this is a 96% decrease since the pandemic peak in January, it reflects a 10% increase from last week's 7-day average.
Yesterday, the country reported 12,872 new COVID-19 cases yesterday and 240 deaths, according to the Johns Hopkins COVID-19 tracker.
Walensky emphasized that at this point in the pandemic, any suffering or death from COVID-19 in the United States is now nearly entirely avoidable, given free, widely accessible, and effective vaccines.
Fauci explained with data from the UK that both mRNA and Johnson & Johnson vaccines are likely to be largely protective against Delta. He said assumptions of Johnson & Johnson's efficacy were made based on the performance of the AstraZeneca vaccine in the United Kingdom, a similar adenovirus-based vaccine.
At this time, Fauci said, the published science does not show that people who received Johnson & Johnson will need an mRNA booster shot.
Earlier this week, Moderna shared newly completed studies that found its COVID-19 vaccine to have a neutralizing effect against all variants tested, although the antibody response to the Delta variant was two times weaker than against the original strain of the coronavirus, NPR reports.
For both mRNA vaccines, however, Fauci warned that full protection comes from two doses of the vaccine, and one dose is significantly less protective against variants.
In related news, doctors are beginning to notice COVID-19 cases that look more like a very bad cold, especially in areas where the Delta variant is spreading, NBC News reports. Unlike the Alpha strain of the virus, which can cause shortness of breath and extreme fatigue, reports from people with the Delta strain feature headache, sore throat, runny nose, and fever.