The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said Friday that the COVID-19 death rate in the United States is rising steadily for the first time in months, with officials calling it “a pandemic of the unvaccinated.”
In the last seven days, the number of new cases increased by nearly 70% to almost 30,000 per day and hospitalizations increased by 36%, with the number of deaths rising steadily, reversing a months-long downward trend that began in mid-January, according to NPR.
CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said, “There is a clear message that is coming through: This is becoming a pandemic of the unvaccinated. Our biggest concern is we are going to continue to see preventable cases, hospitalizations, and sadly deaths among the unvaccinated.”
The rising trend in national data is being driven almost entirely by outbreaks in places where the vaccination rates are low, such as the Ozarks, Florida, and parts of the Mountain West.
Jeff Zients, White House Coronavirus Response Coordinator, said, “Unvaccinated Americans account for virtually all recent COVID-19 hospitalizations and deaths. Each COVID-19 death is tragic, and those happening now are even more tragic because they are preventable.”
The nation’s top infectious disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci said earlier this month that more than 99% of recent COVID deaths were among the unvaccinated, while Dr. Walensky said Friday that unvaccinated people accounted for more than 97% of hospitalizations.
Officials said nearly 56% of the American population has received at least one dose of the vaccine, but in most counties, that number is under 20%.
A low vaccination rate has allowed the virus to spread relatively unimpeded. The officials have constantly been urging unvaccinated Americans to get their shots as soon as possible.
Zients said, “Every person matters. Every shot matters. Every shot is progress. It’s another life protected, another community that’s safer. It’s another step toward putting this pandemic behind us.”
Meanwhile, the White House has ramped up its efforts in recent weeks to convince more and more young people to get their shots. On Wednesday, pop star Olivia Rodrigo visited the White House to encourage youth to get vaccinated.
The officials also said that vaccine misinformation is a major obstacle to reaching the Biden administration’s vaccination goals.
US Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy said, “Health misinformation has cost us lives.” This week, he issued a warning about misinformation online, urging social media companies to do more to combat the spread of vaccine misinformation.