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Delta variant pushes US cases, hospitalisations to 6-month high

Reuters/New York
Filed on August 9, 2021
People line up to get tested for Covid-19 in North Miami, Florida. — AP

Hospitalisations rose 40 per cent and deaths registered an 18 per cent uptick in the past week

Coronavirus cases and hospitalisations in the United States are at a six-month high, fuelled by the rapid spread of the Delta variant across swathes of the country grappling with low vaccination rates.

Nationwide, Covid-19 cases have averaged 100,000 for three days in a row, up 35 per cent over the past week, according to a Reuters tally of public health data. Louisiana, Florida and Arkansas reported the most new cases in the past week, based on population.

Hospitalisations rose 40 per cent and deaths, a lagging indicator, registered an 18 per cent uptick in the past week with the most fatalities by population in Arkansas.

The intensifying spread of the pandemic has led to cancellation of some large high-profile events. One notable exception is an annual motorcycle rally in Sturgis, South Dakota, which has been proceeding as planned.

Florida set records for hospitalisations for eight days in a row, according to the analysis. In that state, most students are due back in the classroom this week as some school districts debate whether to require masks for pupils.

The head of the nation’s second-largest teachers’ union on Sunday announced a shift in course by backing mandated vaccinations for US teachers in an effort to protect students who are too young to be inoculated.

The number of children hospitalised with Covid-19 is rising across the country, a trend health experts attribute to the Delta variant being more likely to infect children than the original Alpha strain.

With the virus once again upending Americans’ lives after a brief summer lull, the push to vaccinate those still reluctant has gained fresh momentum.

Three states — California, New York and Virginia — have mandated vaccinations or weekly testing for state employees, as well as several cities.

The administration of President Joe Biden set new rules late last month requiring federal workers to provide proof of vaccination or face regular testing, mask mandates and travel restrictions. The Pentagon on Monday said that it will seek Biden’s approval by the middle of September to require military members to get vaccinated.

In the private sector, a growing number of companies are also mandating Covid-19 vaccinations. United Airlines, meatpacker Tyson Foods Inc and Microsoft are requiring employees get vaccinated.

The evolving pandemic and the rapid community spread spurred by the Delta variant have already prompted the cancellation of some large-scale events. Last week, organisers cancelled the New York Auto Show that had been set for later this month.

The New Orleans Jazz Fest was cancelled for the second straight year as Louisiana fights a severe outbreak.

But fears about the Delta variant seem to not have dampened the mood in Sturgis, a small town in South Dakota that welcomes hundreds of thousands of motorcycle enthusiasts for the annual Sturgis Motorcycle Rally.

The city of Sturgis has partnered with health officials to provide Covid-19 self-test kits to rally-goers but the event does not require proof of vaccination or mask-wearing.

Last year, health officials cited the rally as a super-spreader event that contributed to an autumn surge in the Midwest.





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