U.S. Coronavirus Cases Rise as Delta Variant Spreads
The highly infectious version of the virus ‘is gaining ground,’ one Southern governor warned amid an uptick of recorded infections in almost every state.
As vaccinations slow in the U.S., the Delta variant is driving a rise in cases.
Dennis Shaffer getting a Covid-19 vaccination at a clinic in Springfield, Mo., on Monday. The vaccines have been found effective against the Delta variant.Credit…Nathan Papes/The Springfield News-Leader, via Associated Press
By Mitch Smith
July 15, 2021, 4:58 a.m. ET
The country’s outlook remains far better than at previous points in the pandemic: Nearly half of all Americans are fully vaccinated, cases and hospitalizations remain at a fraction of their peak and deaths are occurring at some of the lowest levels since the early days of the pandemic.
Yet infections are rising in almost every state. Daily case numbers have increased at least 15 percent over the last two weeks in 49 states, including 19 states that are reporting at least twice as many new cases a day. Full-fledged outbreaks have emerged in a handful of places with relatively low vaccination rates, including Arkansas, Missouri, Louisiana and Nevada.
“The Delta variant is gaining ground,” Gov. Asa Hutchinson of Arkansas told residents as he lamented his state’s low vaccine uptake and sudden spike in cases, from fewer than 200 new infections a day in early June to more than 1,000 a day. “It’s an urgent moment because the solution is available. People are always asking me, ‘How do you protect yourself?’ Get the vaccination.”
The tens of millions of Americans who are vaccinated are largely protected from the virus, including the Delta variant, scientists have said. And in much of the country, especially the Northeast, the Upper Midwest and the West Coast, case rates remain relatively low. Vermont, the state with the highest vaccination rate, is averaging 11 new cases a day.
Still, less than a month after reports of new cases nationally bottomed out at around 11,000 a day, virus cases are increasing again, with about 26,000 new cases a day. Hospitalizations have also started to rise, though at a slower rate.
Intensive care beds in hospitals have become scarce in parts of Missouri, where officials in Springfield on Wednesday asked for an alternative care site. In Mississippi, where cases are up 70 percent over the last two weeks, health officials have urged older adults to avoid large indoor gatherings even if they have been vaccinated. And in Louisiana, which has the country’s second-lowest vaccination rate, the average daily caseload has doubled since the start of July.
“The data are very clear,” said Dr. Joseph Kanter, Louisiana’s state health officer. “All people in Louisiana, especially those who are not yet vaccinated, should know they are now at increased risk of exposure to Covid-19 due to the more transmissible Delta variant, and they should consider their personal risk and their family’s risk.”
The disheartening pattern comes as the vaccine effort, which has become entangled in partisan politics, has largely stalled. About 550,000 people are receiving a vaccine each day, down from 3.3 million shots a day during an April peak.
Even in places that have not yet seen a significant uptick, governors and public health officials have urged vaccine holdouts to get a shot and protect themselves from Delta.
“I hope and pray that it doesn’t come to West Virginia and just absolutely runs across our state like wild,” said Gov. Jim Justice, whose state has recorded relatively few cases recently but has a low vaccination rate. “But the odds are it will.”