The last time the country had back-to-back days with cases peaking at 20,000 was in May, according to the data.
Dr. Rochelle Walensky, who heads the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said Thursday that more than 9 million people live in counties where cases are rising and where vaccination rates are lower than 40%.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Infectious Diseases, said the variant could cause mini-surges in infections in those areas.
“I’m worried as this variant becomes more dominant, the selected areas of the country that have a very low level of vaccination, like 30% or so, you will start to see mini-waves that are localized to certain regions,”
“You do not want to see two separate Americas, one that is vaccinated and protected, and yet another that is unvaccinated and very much at risk,” Fauci said.
Overall, 47.8% of the U.S. population is fully vaccinated, while 20 states have fully vaccinated more than half of their residents.
Alarms in Mississippi
The wave has alerted Mississippi officials, where only a third of the population is fully vaccinated.
“We see a lot of outbreaks. We see a lot of outbreaks in youth. We see a lot of outbreaks in summer activities. We also see a lot of outbreaks in nursing homes where we have our most vulnerable people,” he said.
Case numbers and admissions are trending upwards due to the spread of the virus mainly among those who are unvaccinated, said state epidemiologist Dr. Paul Byers.
While the number of deaths has not increased, Byers said they expect it to change because the number of deaths tends to be behind the case number.
The state advises seniors age 65 and older to avoid mass gatherings until July 26, regardless of vaccination status.
People who are immunocompromised – whose immune system is weaker – are also advised to follow the new guidelines released Friday.
Counseling for those with upper respiratory symptoms
As cases escalate, the CDC is urging all adults and children with upper respiratory symptoms to be tested for Covid-19, regardless of their vaccination status, Walensky told CNN on Friday.
While there is significant overlap between symptoms of the common cold and Covid-19, as they are both respiratory diseases, not everyone will experience the same symptoms for both diseases – and some people may not experience any symptoms.
However, she said people who are fully vaccinated should continue to feel very protected from serious illness.
A breakthrough infection should be considered “vaccine success” as opposed to vaccine failure, Walensky said, because the vaccine does what it was designed to do: prevent serious illness and death.
Breakthrough infections occur when fully vaccinated people get the virus.
Early studies have also confirmed that most people who develop breakthrough infections do not replicate enough viruses in their bodies to become contagious, she said. Although people may test positive, they are probably not a source of the virus.
Is there a need for a booster in the future?
In response, Fauci said people should take boosters advice from federal health officials.
“It is certainly necessary that they listen to the CDC and the FDA, where the FDA is the regulatory authority that has control over this. And the CDC will, in accordance with their advisory committee on immunization practices, recommend,” he said.
“We respect what the pharmaceutical company does, but the American public should take their advice from the CDC and the FDA,” he said.
Dr. Peter Hotez, president of tropical pediatrics at Texas Children’s Hospital, said current vaccines offer high protection.
“It appears that the two doses of the current vaccine are quite robust against the Delta variant,” Hotez said Friday. “So yes, we need a booster, but nothing to worry about right now in terms of vaccination.”
Pfizer said it saw declining immunity to its vaccine – manufactured in partnership with BioNTech – and stepped up its efforts to develop a booster shot to offer additional protection against variants.
Dr. Stephen Thomas, co-ordinator of Pfizer / BioNTech’s vaccine trials, said it was not uncommon for vaccine-induced immunity to decline over time.
“What’s the crucial point, though, and which we do not know the answer to right now, is that even though this immunity diminishes over time, it remains above a level that we need to protect people,” he told CNN’s Erin. Burnett.
“I want to focus people on the point here that the public health burden of Covid is serious illness, hospitalization and death,” he said. “Although these vaccine immune responses diminish over time, they are very, very effective in preventing these three outcomes.”
Federal guidance on schooling in the fall encourages personal learning
Meanwhile, the CDC said Friday that schools should prioritize personal schooling in the fall, but it was crucial to put in place safety strategies such as masking and physical distance and most importantly, vaccinations for all eligible.
Schools that are ready to move away from pandemic measures as the transmission of communities reaches low levels should do so gradually, the agency said in a draft of the guidance CNN has received.
“If localities decide to remove prevention strategies in schools based on local conditions, they should remove them one at a time and monitor closely (with appropriate testing) for any increases in COVID-19 cases before removing the next prevention strategy,” the guide said, adding , that schools should be transparent with families, staff and society when doing so.
Fauci agrees, adding that unvaccinated children should wear masks.
“I think the message from the CDC is clear and I completely agree with them,” Fauci told CNN. “We want all the kids back in personal classes this fall.”
CNN’s Deanna Hackney, Virginia Langmaid, Deidre McPhillips, Lauren Mascarenhas and Brisa Colón contributed to this report.