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White House medical adviser Dr Anthony Fauci has warned “things are going to get worse” in the US, amid a surge in the Delta variant of coronavirus.
“We’re looking not, I believe, to lockdown but we’re looking to some pain and suffering in the future because we’re seeing the cases go up, which is the reason why we keep saying over and over again: The solution to this is get vaccinated and this would not be happening,” he told ABC News on Sunday.
“There are some breakthrough infections among vaccinated – we expect that because no vaccine is 100 per cent effective – but in the breakthrough infections they are mostly mild or without symptoms,” he added. “Whereas the unvaccinated, who have a much, much, much greater chance of getting infected in the first place, are the ones that are vulnerable to getting severe illness that may lead to hospitalisation, and in some cases death.”
The number of average new weekly cases has risen by more than six times between June and July, from 11,473 to 72,493 as of this Sunday, according to the CDC.
And nowhere is worse off than Florida, now the national epicentre of the epidemic.
On Sunday, it broke its previous record for coronavirus hospitalisations, which it set last summer well before vaccines had been developed, with 10,207 hospitalisations confirmed.
The state is also leading the nation in per capita hospitalisations, and averaging 1,525 people in Covid beds per day.
Florida doctors said this week they’re “angry and ashamed” over state governor Ron DeSantis’s response to the resurgent coronavirus.
The high profile Republican has repeatedly criticised federal public health guidance and vowed not to institute new lockdowns or mask mandates, even as the state becomes the national epicentre of the virus, with the Delta variant ravaging the unvaccinated segments of its population.
“While hospitals in our state were filling up, DeSantis was shouting about ‘Freedom over Faucism,’” Bernard Ashby, a Miami cardiologist who leads the state’s Committee to Protect Health Care, told WLRN.
“If DeSantis were as concerned about stopping Covid-19 spread as he was about coming up with these clever jabs about Dr. Fauci, we might not be in this position.”
The governor’s office insists the state is in good shape under Mr DeSantis’s Covid leadership, with the recent spike just a “seasonal” jump, but Florida’s Covid data tells another, far more grim story.
“The governor has made countless public appearances all over the state to encourage vaccination, and he has spoken positively of the vaccines in public remarks nearly 100 times this year,” Mr DeSantis’s office said in a statement to The News Service of Florida.
“He’s proud of the successful rollout and the Seniors First strategy, which means 85 percent of our most vulnerable population is vaccinated, and thousands of lives saved. COVID cases, hospitalisations and especially deaths are down significantly compared to this time last year.”
Florida is now the national centre of the Delta-fuelled Covid resurgence. Cases are up 50 per cent week over week, with 110,000 new ones this week alone, levels not seen since January when the vaccine wasn’t widely available. The state has a positivity rate of 18.1 per cent, and more people hospitalised than any other state in America.
What’s more, the people caring for those in hospital are at risk too: Florida health care workers have some of the lowest vaccination rates in the nation. An AARP report found that as of last month, just 42 per cent of the state’s nursing home workers were fully vaccinated, well behind the national average of 56 per cent.
“There is no higher risk area in the United States than we’re seeing here,” Dr. Aileen Marty, a Florida International University infectious disease expert, told the Miami CBS affiliate. “The numbers that we’re seeing are unbelievable, just unbelievably frightening.”
Despite the growing threat, Mr DeSantis has held fast to a stance against lockdowns, mandates, and other measures shown to stop the spread.
“It is very important that we say unequivocally ‘no’ to lockdowns, no to school closures, no to restrictions and no to mandates,” Mr DeSantis said Wednesday night in Salt Lake City at a conservative conference.