Aug. 15 (UPI) — The United States could soon see more than 200,000 new COVID-19 cases every day as the more contagious Delta variant continues to spread, the director of the National Institutes of Health said Sunday.
NIH Director Dr. Francis Colllins told Fox News Sunday he will “be surprised if we don’t cross 200,000 cases a day in the next couple of weeks” as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported 140,144 new cases and a seven-day moving average of 119,523 infections on Friday.
The CDC reported 804 deaths and a 544 seven-day moving average Friday. The weekly average dropped to 182 on July 10.
“That’s heartbreaking considering we never thought we would be back in that space again. That was January, February. That shouldn’t be August,” said Collins. “But here we are with Delta variant, which is so contagious and this heartbreaking situation where 90 million people are still unvaccinated who are sitting ducks for this virus and that’s the mess we’re in. We’re in a world of hurt and it’s a critical juncture to try to do everything we can to turn that around.”
Daily cases had been below 100,000 since the end of February before spiking in recent weeks, and the United States last reported more than 200,000 cases in January, before COVID-19 vaccines were widely available.
Since the start of the pandemic, the United States has reported a total of 36,663,707 cases and 621,595 deaths, leading the world in both categories, according to data gathered by Johns Hopkins University.
To date, 50.7% of Americans are fully vaccinated while 59.7% have received at least one dose, while 61.7% of adults have completed their vaccine series and 72% have at least received their first dose, according to the CDC.
“We are going to have to continue to get people vaccinated so that right now, even in states in which you have a good relative proportion of people vaccinated, you have to get the overwhelming proportion of people vaccinated,” Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told CBS News’ Face the Nation Sunday.
COVID-19 patients account for 15% of hospitalizations in Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, Nevada and Texas, which have all lagged behind the national average for vaccinations, CNN reported.
The eight states also make up approximately 51% of COVID-19 patients throughout the nation despite accounting for just 24% of the nation’s population.
Florida reported 151,415 new COVID-19 cases over seven days on Friday, a record for a seven-day period during the pandemic.
Amid the surge in cases, U.S. Education Secretary Miguel Cardona urged Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and Texas Gov. Greg Abbott to reverse orders banning schools from requiring masks on campus.
Collins on Sunday warned that schools that have reopened without masks have seen outbreaks and lamented that “politics and polarization have got in the way of a simple public health measure.”
“This mask that I’m holding has somehow become a symbol that it never should have been. This is basically just a life-saving medical device and somehow it’s now being seen as an invasion of your personal liberty,” he said. “We never should have gone there.”