According to CDC Director Rochelle Walensky, the Delta variant now accounts for 83% of all COVID cases in the U.S., a 33% increase from two weeks ago. Walensky added that 99.5% of all COVID-related deaths in the country over recent months have been among unvaccinated Americans.
“This is a critical time during our pandemic and particularly we worry about regions like the Southeast, the South, and mountain states where it’s a perfect storm brewing — low vaccination rates, lack of mitigation measures, high prevalence of the Delta variant, cases going up, testing down, positivity rates high, hospitalizations high,” Dr. Anand Parekh, chief medical advisor at the Bipartisan Policy Center and former deputy assistant secretary at Health and Human Services (HHS), said on Yahoo Finance Live (video above).
Current COVID-19 hot spots in the U.S. include Missouri, Arkansas, and Florida, according to the Mayo Clinic, highlighting Parekh's point. Florida now leads the U.S. in COVID cases, accounting for roughly 20% of all new infections in the country.
“That’s really driving what we’re seeing nationally: a three-fold increase in cases up to about 30,000 seven-day average, hospitalizations going up,” Parekh said. “Again, the vaccinations are the answer here, and masking will be critical as well.”
A recent poll of 1,715 U.S. adults from Yahoo News/YouGov found that only 29% of them believe the virus is more dangerous than the vaccines. Meanwhile, 37% believe vaccines pose more of a risk.
“What I’m most worried about is disinformation, which is the willful or falsification of information,” Parekh said. “That has to be priority number one. That just cannot be acceptable … It’s really important to get at the disinformation piece. The misinformation we’re going to have to continue to work on. That’s education, but combating disinformation needs to be the number one priority.”
Social media plays a major role in disseminating disinformation. Facebook (FB) has recently come under fire for not doing enough to stop COVID-related disinformation on its platform, with President Biden going so far as to say companies like Facebook were "killing people."
“At the end of the day, Americans will have to decide for themselves,” Parekh said. “I hope that everyone gets vaccinated, but Americans should have the facts to make the decision. But disinformation, when you have actors out there that are willingly falsifying information, I think absolutely private sector partners such as the tech industry need to take steps. They need to be public about the steps they’re taking.”
President Biden reiterated his hope that Facebook will better police vaccine misinformation on their platform on July 19, 2021 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
'Vaccination is really our route out of this pandemic'
While disinformation continues spreading, more and more vulnerable Americans are falling ill to the virus.
Hospitalizations are up 45% and deaths are up 75% over the span of the past two weeks, despite testing decreasing by 13%. The pace of vaccinations has begun to flatten out as well.