The southern United States is entering the fifth week of its fourth COVID-19 surge, this one fueled by the highly transmissible Delta (B1617.2) variant, which is spreading quickly through America's unvaccinated citizens.
On Friday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) tracked 23,903 new coronavirus cases in Florida, the state's highest single-day total since the start of the pandemic, according to NPR. On Sunday, approximately one in four hospital beds in the state had a COVID-19 patient in it.
According to a tracker maintained by the Washington Post, the 7-day average of new cases in Florida is up 22%. Only Mississippi and Alabama have higher jumps in daily averages, with 41% and 35%, respectively. Arkansas has seen its daily case counts jump by 21%.
The United States reported 24,234 new COVID-19 cases and 111 deaths yesterday, according to the Johns Hopkins COVID-19 tracker. Overall, 7-day averages in the United States are up 42%.
Austin area hospitals strained
On Saturday, Austin, Texas, city officials sent out a message via text and email to residents, warning, "The Covid-19 situation in Austin is dire. Healthcare facilities are open but resources are limited due to a surge in cases."
According to the New York Times, the city on Friday had COVID-19 patients in more than 180 intensive care unit beds, with 102 of those patients on ventilators.
Late last month, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott banned mask or vaccine mandates. Administrators from Austin-area hospitals said most patients are unvaccinated.
Tennessee is also reporting hospital strain, as officials in that state warned all pediatric hospitals would be full by the end of the week with young COVID-19 patients. Children 10 and under now account for 10% of Tennessee’s new COVID-19 cases, according to USA Today.
Over the weekend, a spokesperson for the American Hospital Association told CNN that nearly 1,500 US hospitals, roughly a quarter of all hospitals in the country, now require staffers to get a COVID-19 vaccine.
AAP asks for vaccine use in children
Pediatric patients seem more prevalent now that a significant number of US adults are vaccinated, and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has sent a letter to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) asking them to authorize COVID-19 vaccines for kids younger than 12 as soon as possible.
"Simply stated, the Delta variant has created a new and pressing risk to children and adolescents across this country, as it has also done for unvaccinated adults," the letter reads. "The FDA should strongly consider authorizing these vaccines for children ages 5-11 years based on data from the initial enrolled cohort, which are already available, while continuing to follow safety data from the expanded cohort in the post-market setting."
Last month the FDA asked both Pfizer and Moderna to double the sizes of their clinical trials in children to gather more safety data on the vaccines in this age group.
In related news, American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten told Meet the Press yesterday that the Delta variant had changed her thinking on vaccine mandates for teachers. The union had previously said that vaccinations for teachers should be voluntary.
Teachers were a priority vaccination group for the Biden administration early this spring, and the White House estimates more than 80% of teachers in the country are fully vaccinated.
The CDC COVID Data Tracker shows 407,561,705 COVID-19 vaccine doses have been delivered in the United States and 351,400,930 have been administered, with 50.1% of Americans fully vaccinated (58.7% have received at least one dose).
Other US developments
- Canada today lifts its prohibition on Americans crossing the border to shop, vacation, or visit, according to the Associated Press. US citizens and permanent legal residents must be both fully vaccinated and test negative for COVID-19 within 3 days to get across the border.
- The New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, traditionally held in the spring but moved to October this year, has been cancelled because of Louisiana's exponential growth in COVID-19 cases, according to the Washington Post. The festival was also cancelled in 2020.
- A federal judge on Sunday night granted Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings' request for an injunction that blocks Florida's law barring businesses from requiring proof of vaccination, Politico reported. The cruise line has a ship set to sail out of Miami on Aug 15.