The highly contagious Delta variant continues to spread across the United States, creating another surge in cases, hospitalizations, and deaths. CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky told the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions that the variant now represents 83% of all new COVID-19 cases in the U.S.
"This is a dramatic increase up from 50%, the week of July 3," Walensky said during the hearing.
She also told Senators that the number of fatalities has increased by 48% over the past week and is now averaging 239 deaths per day. Walensky stressed that the best way to prevent deaths and infections is by vaccinating as many people as possible.
"Each death is tragic and even more heartbreaking when we know that the majority of these deaths could be prevented with a simple, safe, available vaccine," she said.
Currently, vaccination rates in two-thirds of the counties in the U.S. are under 40%.
"In areas where vaccine coverage is low, cases and hospitalizations are starting to climb again," she pointed out.
Dr. Anthony Fauci also testified in front of the committee and explained that the Delta variant is dangerous because of how easily it can spread from person to person. The variant, which was discovered in India in October, has quickly spread around the world and has been identified in over 100 countries.
"The reason it's so formidable is the fact that it has the capability of transmitting efficiently from human to human in an extraordinary manner, well beyond any of the other variants that we've experienced, up to now," Fauci said.