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Photo: Greg Nash/The Hill/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The more transmissible Delta variant now accounts for 83% of COVID-19 cases in the United States, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention director Rochelle Walensky said during a Senate hearing Tuesday.

Why it matters: The "dramatic increase," up from 50% on July 3, has led to a rise in virus-related deaths, Walensky told lawmakers.

  • COVID fatalities have risen by nearly 48% since last week to an average of about 239 per day, according to Walensky.

What they're saying: The CDC director also said that the percentage of cases from the Delta variant is "even higher" in some parts of the country, "particularly in areas of low vaccination rates."

  • "To date, our data indicates that vaccines are available to neutralize the circulating variants in the United States and provide protection against severe disease, hospitalization, and death," Walensky added.
  • "The message from CDC remains clear: the best way to prevent the spread of COVID-19 variants is to prevent the spread of disease and vaccination is the most powerful tool we have."
  • "Each death is tragic and even more heartbreaking when we know that the majority of these deaths could be prevented with a simple, safe, available vaccine."

Go deeper

Oct 28, 2021 - Health

Study: Common antidepressant guards against COVID hospitalization

A COVID-19 intensive care unit in Rio de Janeiro in May. Photo: Fabio Teixeira/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

The readily available antidepressant fluvoxamine significantly reduced COVID-related hospitalizations, according to a large study published Wednesday.

Why it matters: The clinical trial suggests that a cheap, readily available drug could dramatically reduce serious illness and death when prescribed early.

Oct 27, 2021 - Health

COVID cases, deaths at meat plants were far higher than previously thought

Tyson Foods in Portland, Maine, in 2020. Photo: Gregory Rec/Portland Press Herald via Getty Images

Cases and deaths from COVID-19 among workers at the five largest U.S. meatpacking companies were nearly three times higher than previously thought, according to a memo from the House panel probing the response to the pandemic.

Driving the news: At least 59,000 workers contracted COVID-19 and 269 workers died at Tyson Foods, JBS USA, Cargill, National Beef and Smithfield Foods — which together make up more than 80% of the beef market and 60% of the pork market in the U.S. — according to counts through January of this year.

Judge rejects Southwest pilots' challenge to vaccine mandate

A Southwest Airlines plane leaves the gate at Baltimore Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport on Oct. 21. Photo: Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images

A judge ruled that Southwest Airlines can mandate its 9,000 pilots to be vaccinated against COVID-19, declining a union request for a restraining order on the policy, per AP.

Details: U.S. District Judge Barbara Lynn said in her ruling against the Southwest Airlines Pilots Association on Tuesday that the airline was meeting its goal on air transportation safety and "providing 'safe and reasonable working conditions' for pilots, by preventing the spread of disease" with the requirement, the Dallas Morning News noted.