STATE OF AMERICA

Covid-19 cases in the US surge by 55% in the wake of the ‘pandemic of the unvaccinated’

By An Wentzel 25 July 2021

A man poses for a picture after getting a Covid-19 vaccination at Grand Central Terminal in New York, New York, US. (Photo: EPA-EFE / Peter Foley)

Virus cases have soared in the US, boosted by the infectious Delta variant and vaccine hesitancy. The ‘pandemic of the unvaccinated’ is sparking fears that gains made by the US in vaccinating just on 50% of people in the country are being lost due to vaccine hesitancy.

This past Friday, New York City confirmed that the Covid-19 Delta variant had replaced all other strains to become the dominant strain in the city as infection numbers increased. Across the US, officials and health experts have sounded the alarm about this strain, which first surfaced in India and is now found in more than 100 countries.

Since the start of July, new cases in the US have shot up by as much as 400% in some areas. According to Johns Hopkins University data, the US saw a 55% increase in numbers last week – 34,056 cases a day.

Daily Maverick visited Manhattan on Saturday, finding it balmy and pleasant, if a bit smelly depending on where you were when the mild breeze changed direction. The upper East Side was its usual alluring self in the morning, with New Yorkers walking in the leafy parks and young men in packs/teams playing ball games in spaces designated for such activity.

A quick count showed mask-wearers outweighed naked faces by about seven to three. On the street. And some nine out of 10 stores had “No mask, no entry” signs. Taking the No 6 train to the upper West Side the subway is clearly marked with notices in various languages – catering to the city’s English, Spanish and Chinese-speaking people – which make it very clear that you are not allowed on without a mask. Not on the subway, not on the platform and not on the train.

A sign at the New York subway. (Photo: An Wentzel)

New York is also putting on a concerted effort to get everyone vaccinated, including Lady Liberty as a “poster girl” in multilingual advertising wearing a mask and with a calendar displaying her date of vaccination to encourage everyone in the city and state to vaccinate.

A New Yorker seated next to one of the signs in English on the New York subway urging people to get vaccinated. (Photo: An Wentzel)
A New Yorker next to a sign in English and Chinese on the New York subway urging people to get vaccinated. (Photo: An Wentzel)

NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio is calling on private employers to try and make sure all their employees are vaccinated. 

“I’m calling on all New York City employees… whatever the maximum you [as an employer] feel you can do.” He wants healthcare workers to be vaccinated “or get tested weekly” in the absence of any mandate for health workers to be vaccinated, “because Delta is nothing to fool around with”.

While everyone in the US aged 12 and up is now eligible to be vaccinated against Covid-19, numbers have stalled. A US vaccine tracker reports that as of 22 July around 49% of Americans – 162,174,165 people – had been vaccinated. 

Across the country, however, hospitalisations and cases of Covid-19 are up. While deaths are still relatively low, 99% of deaths are among unvaccinated people, and 97% of people hospitalised with Covid-19 are unvaccinated.

As cases rise across the states, the country’s most famous infectious disease specialist, Dr Anthony Fauci urged unvaccinated Americans to get jabbed.

“The bottom line is that we are dealing with a formidable variant, in the Delta variant as reflected by the data and the extreme vulnerability of people who are not vaccinated – which will account for infections, hospitalisations and ultimately deaths.”

The US Centers for Disease Control is trying all means, including social media, to get the message out and alert people to the fact that coronavirus cases are rising rapidly.

Late last week, White House coronavirus response coordinator Jeff Zients told the media that while cases are rising around the country, last week “three states with lower vaccination rates accounted for 40% of all cases nationwide”. 

Zients said that “for the second week in a row,” one in five of all new cases were in Florida and “within communities, these cases are primarily among unvaccinated people”.

In Alabama, which has very low vaccination numbers, Dr Jeanne Barou, a professor of infectious diseases, said they are seeing younger people in intensive care units, “… intubated, who are very sick”.

Another Alabama doctor, Brytney Cobia, told CNN that one of the last things her patients do before they are intubated due to Covid-19, is beg her for the vaccine, but she has to tell them it’s too late. Cobia said that in many of these cases, when the unvaccinated patient succumbs to the virus, surviving family members are shocked, saying they believe Covid-19 is a hoax.

On Friday, July 16, US President Joe Biden told a media briefing: “Look, the only pandemic we have is among the unvaccinated.”

Bloomberg reports that almost four billion vaccine doses have been administered around the world – some 32.9 million doses daily. DM

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