Over the weekend, the seven-day average of coronavirus deaths in the United States surpassed 1,000 again, according to the New York Times’ pandemic tracker. The four-digit toll breached on Saturday and Sunday this weekend marks the highest seven-day average of deaths in the U.S. since March 30, when vaccinations were not yet widely available for most Americans.
While the death toll is significantly lower than the 3,300 Americans that were dying every day on average this January, the surge in deaths reveals yet again how the Delta variant has changed the realities of the pandemic. The seven-day averages of deaths and hospitalizations have roughly quadrupled in the past six weeks, as the more contagious strain has spread rapidly throughout the nation, particularly in the Southeast.
As a result of the fourth wave of COVID cases — and mandates among many public and private employers — vaccinations increased significantly in August, with 1 million doses administered each day for three straight days last week. Though the vaccines severely reduce the risk of hospitalization and death, Delta has decreased the shots’ ability to stop the transmission of the virus. With cases once again surging, the Food and Drug Administration and Centers for Disease Control have authorized booster shots for immunocompromised persons, and a general authorization for boosters is reportedly expected to come next month.
With deaths trailing hospitalizations throughout the pandemic and hospitalizations still rising precipitously, the death rate is expected to continue to rise in the United States, the nation with the most confirmed COVID casualties in the world. Alabama officials say they have already run out of ICU beds, and five more southern states are above 90 percent full. Following the 2021 Sturgis motorcycle rally — one of the most notorious superspreader events of last summer’s COVID wave — cases and hospitalizations are once again surging in North Dakota.
In the Delta wave, patients are also less likely to be vaccinated and are skewing younger, as older, more vulnerable populations have largely complied with recommendations to receive the vaccine. “Every single patient regrets not getting the vaccine,” David De La Zerda, an ICU doctor in Miami told the New York Times. “I don’t have one that doesn’t. They look really sick, and they look really young. You can see somebody now talking to you, and the next time you see them, they’re dead.”