On Sunday, the seven-day average of coronavirus deaths in the United States passed 2,000 for the first time since March 1, according to the New York Times’ pandemic tracker. The tragic benchmark comes in the midst of a fourth wave in many states in the South and Northwest, where unvaccinated Americans have overwhelmingly represented the number of patients hospitalized and killed by the Delta variant, which now makes up 99 percent of new cases, according to the Centers for Disease Control.
While the most recent wave of cases may have stalled in late August, deaths continue to rise precipitously, a trend that has been consistent throughout the pandemic. (A little over a month ago, the seven-day average of deaths surpassed 1,000 for the first time since March 30.) Though new infections are declining in August hot spots like Florida and Alabama, the Delta wave is now impacting states further north, including Kentucky, West Virginia, and Tennessee, where COVID hospitalizations are now at an all-time high. Several Rocky Mountain states are also seeing a surge in hospitalizations: This week, the Idaho Department of Health and Wellness declared a hospital resource crisis allowing facilities to ration health care, a measure that is also being taken in some hospitals in Montana. The total number of confirmed deaths in the United States is now speeding toward 700,000, with almost 45,000 deaths in the past 28 days, according to the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Research Center. CNN reports that, as of last week, one in 500 Americans have now died from the coronavirus.
The spread of the Delta variant has frustrated public-health officials and many politicians in the United States — a nation with a staggering vaccine stockpile that is currently leading the world in new cases. On September 10, President Joe Biden delivered an irate speech blaming vaccine holdouts for the severity of the fourth wave and issued new mandates requiring two-thirds of the U.S. workforce to get shots or be tested weekly. “We’ve been patient, but our patience is wearing thin,” the president said, adding that “your refusal has cost all of us.”
With vaccine boosters already administered to immunocompromised Americans who received the Pfizer and Moderna shots, the White House and the Food and Drug Administration are sparring over a plan to give more doses to the vaccinated public. On Friday, an FDA advisory committee voted against a proposal to give booster shots to any American over 16 who has already been vaccinated, though the officials did recommend boosters for anyone at high risk of a severe infection and those over 65. (A similar panel at the Centers for Disease Control will make their recommendation this week.) Fifty-four percent of Americans are fully vaccinated, putting the U.S. in 43rd among all nations, between Switzerland and Sri Lanka. And though a large anti-vaccination movement persists — with de facto leaders in the Republican Party — a majority of Americans support the recent vaccine mandate from the president, according to a Fox News poll published on Sunday.