COVID-19 becoming ‘pandemic of the unvaccinated’, CDC director says

The director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Friday that COVID-19 in the United States is becoming "a pandemic of the unvaccinated" as cases and deaths increase in the country, especially in areas with low vaccination rates. 

During a White House press briefing, Dr. Rochelle Walensky said cases in the U.S. were up about 70% over the last week, hospital admissions were up 36% and deaths rose by 26%. 

"There’s a clear message that is coming through: this is becoming a pandemic of the unvaccinated," Walensky said. "We are seeing outbreaks of cases in parts of the country that have low vaccination coverage because unvaccinated people are at risk. And communities that are fully vaccinated are generally faring well."

Nearly all hospital admissions and deaths, she said, are among the unvaccinated.

"If you’re not vaccinated, you remain at risk and our biggest concern is that we are going to continue to see preventable cases, hospitalizations and sadly deaths among the unvaccinated," Walensky continued.

White House COVID-19 coordinator Jeff Zients echoed her message, saying the pandemic is "one that predominantly threatens unvaccinated people."

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He said the Biden administration expects cases to increase in the weeks ahead because of spread in communities with low vaccination rates. Four states accounted for 40% of new cases last week, with one in five coming from Florida.

Walensky reiterated that vaccinations are protective against the deadly coronavirus and its variants, including the highly contagious delta variant. 

Earlier this month, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said all three COVID-19 vaccines approved for emergency use by the FDA — Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson — are effective against the delta variant.

"The world is understandably worried about the delta virus variant," Fauci said. "The vaccines indeed are effective against it."

Fauci cited various studies, including three separate real-world studies which showed Pfizer was 79%, 88% and 96% effective against the delta variant.

RELATED: Fauci says all 3 COVID-19 vaccines effective against delta variant

An Associated Press analysis of available government data from May showed that "breakthrough" infections in fully vaccinated people accounted for fewer than 1,200 of more than 853,000 COVID-19 hospitalizations. That’s about 0.1%.

And only about 150 of the more than 18,000 COVID-19 deaths in May were in fully vaccinated people. That translates to about 0.8%, or five deaths per day on average.

On Thursday, the CDC reported more than 33,000 new cases of COVID-19 with a 7-day average of about 26,300 cases — an increase of 70% from the prior week’s 7-day average. Seven-day average daily deaths have also increased.

Currently, 56.5% of American adults are fully vaccinated and 67.9% have at least one shot of the vaccine, according to CDC data