The highly contagious Delta variant now accounts for an estimated 83 percent of new coronavirus cases in the United States – a “dramatic increase” since early July when it crossed the 50 percent threshold to become the dominant variant in that country, said the director of Das, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said on Tuesday.
In some regions the percentage is even higher – especially where vaccination rates are low, said Dr. Rochelle Walensky, the C.D.C. Director said during a Senate Health Committee hearing. Two-dose vaccines have been shown to be effective against the Delta variant, but questions have been raised about Johnson & Johnson’s single-dose therapy for Delta. While nearly 60 percent of US adults are fully vaccinated, that’s less than half of the total US population.
She said the C.D.C. would update their website later on Tuesday to reflect the new estimate of Delta cases the agency is deriving from gene sequencing of new coronavirus cases.
The new number comes as new cases have risen in the United States, even though cases, hospital admissions and deaths are only a fraction of their highs. Yet public health experts are watching the increase with great concern, and Dr. Walensky warned last week that “this is going to be a pandemic for the unvaccinated”. According to a New York Times database, the seven-day average now shows nearly 38,000 new daily cases, up from about 11,000 per day not long ago.
Tuesday’s hearing was controversial at times. Utah Republican Senator Mitt Romney urged Dr. Janet Woodcock, acting commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, as the F.D.A. would approve booster injections – and wasn’t happy when she couldn’t give a specific answer. Federal health officials have said booster injections are now unnecessary and have urged Pfizer for more evidence.
Other Republicans argued with witnesses over matters such as mask mandates, booster vaccinations for Covid-19 vaccines, and “gain the function” research aimed at identifying genetic mutations that could make a virus stronger.
Kentucky Republican Senator Rand Paul escalated his longstanding attacks on Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, President Biden’s top medical advisor for the coronavirus pandemic, and accused Dr. Fauci said he had committed a crime in May by lying to Congress when he told senators that the National Institutes of Health was conducting research on “gain of function” in a laboratory in Wuhan, China, the epicenter of the early days of the pandemic , have not financed.
Dr. Fauci, in turn, accused the Senator of falsely suggesting that the N.I.H. is somehow responsible for hundreds of thousands of deaths from the pandemic – an extraordinary exchange for the Senate, with witnesses almost always submitting to lawmakers.
“I have never lied before Congress and I am not withdrawing that statement,” said Dr. Fauci, adding, “Senator Paul, you honestly don’t know what you’re talking about, and I want to say that officially.”