WASHINGTON, DC — With COVID-19 cases on the rise around the country, concerns are growing about the Delta variant.
Dr. Rochelle Walensky, Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) testified before a Senate panel Tuesday and said the Delta variant accounts for a majority of cases in the U.S.
“The Delta variant now represents 83 percent of sequenced cases,” said Walensky. “This is a dramatic increase, up from 50 percent the week of July 3rd. In some parts of the country the percentage is even higher, particularly in areas of low vaccination rates.”
Public health officials said our fight against COVID-19 has shown progress but it’s mixed with growing concerns.
“We are at a point of great promise and peril in the fight against COVID-19,” said Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), Chair of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee.
“Since the pandemic peaked in January 2021, we have seen large reductions in COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths,” said Walensky. “On the other hand, our progress across the country is not uniform. Vaccine coverage varies by state and by county. Communities where people remain unvaccinated are most vulnerable and most likely to experience increase in case counts.”
Walensky and National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) Director Dr. Anthony Fauci stressed the urgency for people to get vaccinated.
“The best way to prevent the spread of COVID-19 variants is to prevent the spread of disease and vaccination is the most powerful tool we have,” said Walensky.
“We have the tools to end this epidemic,” said Fauci. “It is up to us to utilize those tools.”
Fauci said the Delta variant has been detected in more than 90 countries.
“The reason it’s so formidable is the fact that it has the capability of transmitting efficiently from human to human in an extraordinary manner well beyond any of the other variants that we’ve experienced up to now which has led to it becoming the dominant variant in this country,” said Fauci.
Lawmakers from both parties expressed concerns over continued vaccine hesitancy.
“COVID won’t just go away,” said Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC), Ranking Member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee. “We need all Americans who can get the vaccine to get the vaccine.”
Walensky said the overwhelming majority of COVID-19 deaths now involve people who have not been vaccinated.
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