WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — As the delta variant of the coronavirus becomes more prevalent in the United States, officials say the urgency for everyone to get vaccinated is becoming more important.
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New estimates from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said the highly contagious variant now accounts for more than 51% of COVID-19 cases in America.
Even though the U.S. is seeing an increase in virus cases with the delta variant, the number is still much lower than at the height of the pandemic.
Citing researchers at Georgetown University, NBC News reported Thursday that five areas of the country that have low vaccination levels could become a breeding ground for new coronavirus variants.
Those areas include:
- Portions of northern Texas, southwestern Oklahoma and eastern New Mexico
- Western Lousiana, eastern Texas and southern Arkansas
- Southern Missouri and northern Arkansas
- Northern Mississippi, southwestern Tennessee and northwest Alabama
- Southeast Alabama, southwest Georgia and areas of northwest Florida
The latest figures from the Florida Department of Health show the number of COVID-19 vaccine doses in Florida continues to decline, falling to 207,089 doses administered for the week beginning July 2.
At the same time, new COVID-19 cases in Florida are on the upswing again, reaching 23,697 for the same week.
"The number of COVID cases are on the rise, that are being admitted both to the floor and to the ICU," said Dr. Justin Williams at Wellington Regional Medical Center.
Williams said it's exhausting and discouraging to see how the delta variant is taking hold in the U.S.
"The majority of the ones, at least I’ve been seeing in ICU, not only have they been unvaccinated, but they’ve also been younger than the previous waves we've had," Williams said.
He's talking about adults under 40 years old becoming sick as the delta variant of COVID now starts to attack the unvaccinated population.
"It’s very disappointing because, as we know, it's not hard to get a vaccine if you want to get one," said infectious disease specialist Dr. Larry Bush.
Bush said vaccines sit in his office waiting and unused as the delta variant continues to spread.
The number of hospitalizations is not near the height of the pandemic, but the trends are worrying to health experts.
"We know that it's much more transmissible, it may not be more pathogenic or virulent, but it is more transmissible, and it will find people who are not immune," Bush said.
Statewide the vaccination rate in Florida is right around 46 percent. The rates are higher in Palm Beach County and the Treasure Coast counties -- well over 50 percent.
In an interview with CNN last week, Dr. Anthony Fauci warned that if such disparities continue to grow, under-vaccinated areas could see surges in cases that could overwhelm health resources.
"You're going to have areas where the vaccination rate is high, where there's more than 70% of the population, as we see, with at least one dose. When you compare that to areas where you have, say, 35% of the people vaccinated, you clearly have a high risk of seeing spikes in these selective areas," Fauci said in an interview with CNN's Don Lemon.