Video source: YouTube, Good Morning America
By Maria Caspani and Roshan Abraham
Daily new COVID-19 cases have climbed to a six-month high in the United States, with more than 100,000 infections reported nationwide as the Delta variant ravaged Florida and other states with lower vaccination rates.
The seven-day average of new reported cases reached nearly 95,000, a five-fold increase in less than a month, Reuters data through Wednesday showed.
Seven U.S. states with among the lowest COVID-19 vaccination rates – Florida, Texas, Missouri, Arkansas, Louisiana, Alabama and Mississippi – account for half of the country's new cases and hospitalizations in the last week, White House COVID-19 coordinator Jeff Zients told reporters on Thursday.
"We're seeing terrifying #COVID19 trends in our hospitals," County Judge Lina Hidalgo wrote on Twitter. She is the top official of Harris County, the most populous county in Texas and home to the city of Houston. "At this point if you're unvaccinated by choice, you're complicit in this crisis."
TheU.S. government will supply booster shots to Americans with compromised immune systems, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the top U.S. infectious disease expert, said Thursday. A day earlier he warned that cases could double to 200,000 per day due to the variant in the coming weeks.
The United States is joining Germany, France and Israel in giving booster shots despite a plea by the World Health Organization to hold off until more people around the world can get their first shot.
Florida, which has emerged as a hotbed of new infections, set yet another grim hospitalization record on Thursday with 12,373 beds occupied by COVID-19 patients, according to data from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). More children are hospitalized with the virus in Florida than in any other U.S. state.
Louisiana and Arkansas are also grappling with record or near-record numbers of coronavirus patients occupying beds, according to a Reuters tally.
Elsewhere, Virginia on Thursday became the third state after California and New York to mandate vaccines or weekly testing for all state employees. Vaccinations are required only for some government employees in New Jersey.
Cases were still rising in Los Angeles County, health director Barbara Ferrer told reporters, but appeared to be leveling off after a dramatic surge last week.
The rising number of infections prompted more private-sector companies to require vaccines for employees and customers and some have delayed plans for workers to return to the office.
Amazon.com, which had originally set Sept. 7 as the return to office date, on Thursday said it would not expect U.S. corporate employees to come back until next year.
Reporting by Roshan Abraham in Bengaluru, Maria Caspani in New York; Susan Heavey, Carl O'Donnell and Trevor Hunnicutt in Washington and Dan Whitcomb in Los Angeles; Editing by Lisa Shumaker and Chris Reese.