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Expand chart
Data: CSSE Johns Hopkins University; Note: Rhode Island and Iowa data is from CDC and from July 12-July 19; Map: Axios Visuals

Coronavirus infections are rising dramatically all over the U.S. as the highly contagious Delta variant spreads.

The big picture: Some “breakthrough” infections are happening to vaccinated people, but this rising tide of cases and hospitalizations is mainly a threat to those who aren’t vaccinated. And in some parts of the country, most people aren’t vaccinated — so the virus can still do serious damage.

Where it stands: Nationwide, the average number of new cases per day was up 55% over the past week.

  • New cases increased in 46 states, and many of those increases are substantial.
  • Florida is now averaging just under 6,500 new cases per day — by far the most of any state, and a 91% jump from the week before.
  • New cases more than doubled over the past week in Mississippi — from about 320 per day to about 660 per day. The state has one of the lowest vaccination rates in the country; just 34% of its residents are fully vaccinated.

Earlier this summer, the U.S. seemed to have COVID-19 on the ropes. But now the Delta variant is sweeping through the country.

“Breakthrough infections” — people who have contracted the virus even after being vaccinated — are getting a lot of attention as cases mount. But it’s clear that those infections are not the primary driver of this new surge in cases, and that vaccinated people are much, much safer than unvaccinated people.

  • 97% of people hospitalized for COVID-19 infections are unvaccinated, the CDC said last week, and federal officials have previously said that about 99% of people who die from the virus weren’t vaccinated.

By the numbers: More than 160 million Americans are fully vaccinated.

  • Of those 160 million people, just 3,733 have subsequently been hospitalized for a severe COVID-19 infection, according to the CDC’s most recent update, and 791 have died from the virus.
  • Clinical trials showed both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccine to be 94-95% effective at preventing serious illness and death. There will be people in the other 5-6%. That does not mean the vaccines don’t work; those cases are noteworthy precisely because they are rare.
  • Real-world evidence consistently shows that the vaccines continue to offer strong protection against the Delta variant.

More evidence of the vaccines’ effectiveness came just this week, in a study — which has not yet been peer-reviewed — of health care workers in India.

  • In this study of roughly 28,000 vaccinated health care workers, just 5% developed symptomatic infections after being vaccinated. Only 83 people had to be admitted to a hospital, and none died.

The bottom line: The vaccines are the most effective weapon against this pandemic, but they only work if we use them.

Go deeper

Sep 18, 2021 - Health

Mississippi reports rise in COVID-19 deaths among pregnant women

Dr. Thomas Dobbs speaks during a House Homeland Security Subcommittee hearing in Washington, D.C., on March 10, 2020. Photo: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images

At least eight pregnant women in Mississippi, who weren't fully vaccinated, have died of COVID-19 since late July, CNN reports.

Why it matters: The eight pregnant women who have died from the virus more than doubles the state's pandemic total in just two months.

Updated Sep 17, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

  1. Vaccines: Key FDA committee takes on the big booster question — Los Angeles County to require vaccination proof at indoor bars — France suspends 3,000 unvaccinated health workers without pay.
  2. Health: Worsening crisis at Rikers Island jail spurs call for action — 1 in 500 Americans has died — Cases are falling, but deaths are rising.
  3. Politics: White House invites call with Nicki Minaj to discuss vaccine — Gottlieb says CDC hampered U.S. response — 26 states have limited state or local officials' public health powers.
  4. Education: Denver looks to students to close Latino vaccination gap — Federal judge temporarily blocks Iowa's ban on mask mandates in schools — Massachusetts activates National Guard to help with school transportation.
  5. Variant tracker: Where different strains are spreading.
Tina Reed, author of Vitals
Sep 17, 2021 - Health

Key FDA committee takes on the big booster question

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

A key FDA advisory committee is meeting today to discuss Pfizer's proposal for a COVID vaccine booster — but it will set the stage for the entire booster debate.

The big question: Not only whether experts believe there’s enough evidence to support boosters, but also whether they believe additional shots should be made available for everyone or limited to older Americans and the immunocompromised.