New daily COVID-19 cases and deaths jumped to six-week highs, as the delta variant has continued to spread rapidly to become the dominant strain in the U.S.
There were at least 23,549 new COVID-19 cases on Tuesday, according to a New York Times tracker, the most since new cases reached 27,747 on May 27. Deaths climbed to at least 714 on Tuesday, the first time the number topped the 700 mark since it reached 759 on May 28.
The seven-day average of new daily cases rose to 12,914 on Tuesday from 11,797 on Monday, and was 14% above where it was two weeks ago. The seven-day average of deaths climbed to 250 on Tuesday from 194, but was down 19% from two weeks ago.
The rise in cases and deaths comes as the highly transmissible delta variant of SARS-CoV-2 has fast become the dominant strain in the U.S., accounting for more than half of recent new cases.
Delta, also known as the B.1.617.2 strain, has accounted for 51.7% of COVID-19 cases in the U.S. over the two-week period through July 3, according to data provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. A month ago, the delta variant accounted for just 10.1% of COVID-19 cases.
The parts of the U.S. in which the delta variant accounts for the highest percentage of COVID-19 cases are in the central regions, with the Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) Region 7, surrounding Kansas City, Missouri, at 80.7% and the HHS Region 8 surrounding Denver, Colorado at 74.3%.
If there is good news, the way to combat the new variant is the same for the original variant: get vaccinated. Early studies have shown that COVID-19 vaccines authorized for emergency use in the U.S., from Pfizer Inc. PFE, -0.33% and partner BioNTech SE BNTX, -3.83%, Moderna Inc. MRNA, -4.90% and Johnson & Johnson JNJ, +0.40%, provide protection against the delta variant.
At least the vaccines appear to reduce severe COVID-19 cases. “They are nearly 100% effective against severe disease and death, meaning nearly every death due to COVID-19 is preventable,” the CDC said in a statement.
However, the pace of vaccinations have slowed, particularly among younger adults.
In total, 157.64 million Americans, or 47.5% of the total U.S. population, have been fully vaccinated, CDC data show. Among those 18 years of age an older, 150.57 million people, or 58.3% of that population have been vaccinated, while 157.51 million people aged at least 12 years, or 55.5% of that population, have been fully vaccinated.
In the U.S., fully vaccinated means it has been two weeks since the second of the two-dose vaccines developed by Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna have been administered, or it’s been two weeks since receiving the lone dose of J&J’s vaccine.
There are 11 states in which more than half their populations have been fully vaccinated, led by Vermont at 60.0% and Massachusetts at 58.3%. Meanwhile, there are five states in which less than a third of their population have been fully vaccinated, with Mississippi at 27.9% and Alabama at 30.8% having the lowest percentages.
The global tally for the coronavirus-borne illness rose to 184.76 million on Wednesday, while deaths climbed to 3,996,132, according to JHU data.
The U.S. still leads the world, in total cases at 33.75 million and in deaths, which totaled 605,944.
India is second in total cases at 30.66 million and third by fatalities at 404,211.
Brazil has had the third highest number of cases at 18.86 million, according to Johns Hopkins data, and is second in deaths at 526,892.
Mexico has fourth highest death toll at 233,958 but is 15th in cases at 2.55 million.
In Europe, Russia continues to pull ahead of the U.K. by deaths. Russia now has 137,718 fatalities, while the U.K. has 128,532, making Russia the country with the fifth highest death toll in the world and highest in Europe.
China, where the virus was first discovered late in 2019, has had 103,949 confirmed cases and 4,848 deaths, according to its official numbers, which are widely held to be underreported.