Delta variant fears come true as COVID spreads and vaccination stalls

The COVID-19 Delta variant now accounts for 83-percent of all new coronavirus cases in the US, the CDC has confirmed, while fatalities have also risen again after a period of decline. The new figures suggest earlier fears that the Delta strain could spread far more rapidly were, if anything, optimistic, as the particularly virulent mutation and immunization reluctance in some states lead to new and dangerous hotspots.

As recently as the week of July 4, Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), told the US Senate today, Delta cases were at 50-percent of all sequenced cases in the US. "This is a dramatic increase," Walensky said.

Over the past week alone, the CDC director said, COVID-19 fatalities have risen by almost 48-percent. They now average 239 a day. What's frustrating, Walensky said, was that many of the deaths could've been avoided had vaccination uptake continued.

"Each death is tragic, and even more heartbreaking when we know that the majority of these deaths could be prevented with a simple, safe, available vaccine," the CDC director pointed out.

So far, according to the CDC's numbers, 48.6-percent of the US total population is fully vaccinated. That means they've had the required one or two doses of vaccine – depending on which drug they are given – and waited at least two weeks after the final injection. 56.1-percent of the US population have had at least one dose.

Still, even with over 161 million people fully vaccinated, that still leaves a considerable number of people who are yet to be immunized. Unsurprisingly, states in which vaccination has been least popular – such as Missouri, Oklahoma, and Alabama – are currently seeing the highest infection rates.

The challenge is that the newer COVID variants "seem to spread more easily and quickly than other variants," the CDC says. "An increase in the number of cases will put more strain on healthcare resources, lead to more hospitalizations, and potentially more deaths."

Even in areas of the US where vaccination levels are relatively high, Delta has overtaken earlier variants and become the most common strain. However while immunized people appear to be able to fight off infection, those who have not been vaccinated are ending up in hospital in increasing numbers.

Despite that, softening rules around mask wearing and social distancing continue. Earlier this month, the CDC announced new rules for in-person learning, aiming to get students back into classrooms. While reminding parents that children aged 12 and over can now be vaccinated, the agency also said that – despite a mixture of vaccinated and unvaccinated people being inevitable – "safely returning to in-person instruction in the fall 2021 is a priority."