Nearly All New COVID Deaths in the U.S. Have This in Common, CDC Director Says
There's a key commonality among almost all the new deaths across the country.
While COVID-related deaths have been on a sharp decline over the past couple of months, we're not out of the woods yet. According to the CDC, the seven-day average of deaths reported in the U.S. as of July 21 was 300. While the new, more infectious Delta variant spreading in the states poses a new threat to the country, experts say we're not completely helpless. Recently, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Rochelle Walensky, MD, pointed out that almost all of these new deaths have one major thing in common—they're largely preventable.
"COVID-19 vaccines are available for everyone ages 12 and up," Walensky said on June 22 during a White House briefing. "They are nearly 100 percent effective against severe disease and death—meaning nearly every death due to COVID-19 is particularly tragic, because nearly every death, especially among adults, due to COVID-19 is at this point entirely preventable." She added that COVID is "an opportunist," meaning that as long as there are unvaccinated people, the virus will continue to be a threat.
On June 22, White House COVID adviser Anthony Fauci, MD, echoed this sentiment. He told CNN that people still dying from COVID in the U.S. are "overwhelmingly" unvaccinated.
Hospitalizations in the U.S. show a similar trend. A spokesperson for Sanford Health, which manages and runs 44 medical centers and more than 200 clinics across four Midwest states, told USA Today that less than 5 percent of the 1,456 patients admitted for COVID since January have been fully vaccinated. Another professional reported a similar situation. "We're all seeing the same thing—when someone does get sick and comes to the hospital, they're much more likely to be young and unvaccinated," Robert Wachter, MD, professor and chair of the Department of Medicine at the University of California, San Francisco, told USA Today.
According to the CDC, as of June 23, 62.6 percent of people in the U.S. over the age of 12 have received at least one dose of the COVID vaccine, and 53 percent are fully vaccinated. While this sounds promising, experts predict that with the current slowing of vaccination rates, it's unlikely that the country will meet the goal set by President Joe Biden to have 70 percent of the adult population in the U.S. vaccinated by July 4.
Although fully vaccinated people can still get COVID, studies have shown that the vaccines available in the U.S. are highly effective at preventing severe disease. Vaccinated people that do seek medical attention tend to be people with compromised immune systems, who may not have gotten full coverage from the vaccine, Todd Rice, MD, director of the medical intensive care unit at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, told NBC News.