Members of the White Houe COVID-19 response team on Thursday issued more warnings to Americans who have not sought out a vaccination as the threat from the delta variant continues to rise.
However, the team again reiterated that those who are vaccinated still have a high degree of protection from infection from the variant strain and even more protection against severe illness or death.
"Whether you are vaccinated or not, we, together, are not out of the woods yet," CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said Thursday. "We are at another pivotal point in this pandemic."
While deaths linked to COVID-19 remain at low levels not seen since March 2020, the U.S. is seeing an uptick in cases for the first time in several months.
On Wednesday, the U.S. recorded 46,000 new COVID-19 cases — the most the country has reported in a single day since the beginning of May.
According to the CDC, the U.S. has seen the seven-day rolling average of daily cases increase from a low average of 9,000 a day on June 27 to a current average of about 38,00 a day.
The delta variant is driving the surge in cases. According to Walensky, the variant strain accounts for 83% of the virus circulating in the U.S.
According to the CDC and top health officials in the White House, Americans who are vaccinated have significant protection from the delta variant and should feel comfortable going without masks and social distancing unless their local health department says otherwise.
However, to Americans who have not yet been fully vaccinated against COVID-19, the CDC says the delta variant poses a significant risk. Experts say the delta variant is 50% more transmissible than the beta variant, which was first detected in the U.K. in late 2020.
Health experts fear that as the delta variant continues to spread, communities in which vaccination rates are low may see a surge in hospitalizations and deaths linked to the virus.
Team coordinator Jeff Zients pointed out that Florida, Texas and Missouri — all states in which vaccination rates are low — accounted for 40% of nationwide cases last week. Florida alone represented 20% of all new cases of COVID-19 last week.
According to the CDC, vaccinations are the best way to fight against the spread of the delta variant. While 68% of adults are now at least partially vaccinated, Bloomberg reports that the U.S. is currently only administering an average of 519,000 vaccines a day — down from an average of 3.3 million a day in April.
"Ask your questions, talk to your health care provider, talk to your friends and neighbors... and get those questions answered so you can feel comfortable," Walensky said Thursday, speaking to unvaccinated Americans.
As Dr. Anthony Fauci pointed out, even in the rare event that a vaccinated person gets infected with COVID-19, it's highly unlikely that they would get severely sick or die.
"Infections after vaccination are expected. No vaccines are 100% effective," Fauci said Thursday. "Even though we're seeing infections after vaccination, the effectiveness against severe disease is still substantial."
Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy also called on Americans to "raise their own bar" when it comes to the COVID-19 content they share on social media in the hopes of fight the spread of fighting misinformation.
"If you're not sure, don't share," Murthy said.