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The country continues to creep back to normal, but Covid appears, Whack-a-Mole style, particularly where young and potentially unvaccinated people congregate.
The pop-up outbreaks add a thread of anxiety to America’s hot vaccine summer. The people who will likely be most concerned are those who are already vaccinated. The people who will be least concerned are likely to be those who were already running free last summer, when Covid really took off.
Related: Your top questions about Covid and the Delta variant, answered
Summer camp in Texas. The horror story this week is about a summer camp run by a church in South Texas, where, of more than 400 attendees in late June, 125 campers and adults were diagnosed with Covid, including the Delta variant, after returning home.
Rescue team in Surfside. Last week, a rescue team helping at the Surfside condo collapse was taken offline after six members tested positive.
Summer camp in Illinois. Days before that, it was another summer camp, this one in Illinois, where more than 80 teens and adult staffers tested positive after attending the camp, which did not check vaccination status for campers or counselors and did not require masks to be worn indoors.
Migrant detention facilities. A group of three whistleblowers has called for more to be done by the Biden administration to protect migrants detained at the Southern border as things return to pre-pandemic levels. There have been 7,500 Covid cases in the centers since April, according to a New York Times review.
A US embassy. Days before that, there were reports that Covid had run through the US embassy in Afghanistan.
Neither the State Department nor the US military are requiring vaccination – despite more than a hundred million doses administered in the US, the vaccines remain approved for emergency use rather than full approval.
“Should the FDA approve it, then I am certain that Pentagon leadership will take a look at what our options are going forward, including the potential option of making it mandatory,” Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said Tuesday.
The military’s vaccination rates are actually quite high – over 70% for both the Army and Navy. The Air Force and Marines lag at 61% and 58%, respectively.
More on delta variant
Delta Force? The Biden administration has moved to put together groups of quick-response teams specifically to deal with potential flare-ups of the Delta variant.
I’d like to call them Delta Force, but there’s already one of those.
From CNN’s report:
These teams – made up of officials from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Department of Health and Human Services and the Federal Emergency Management Agency – will go into communities where officials are worried about a potentially deadly combination: low vaccination rates and a significant presence of the highly transmissible form of the virus.
The White House has deployed similar response teams in the past, but this is the first time they are focused on the Delta variant, a White House official said. These response teams will conduct surge testing, provide therapeutics like monoclonal antibodies and deploy federal personnel to areas that need support staff for vaccinations.
Some countries return to lockdown. The US is not handling Covid in the same way as other countries. Australia locked down 5 million people in Sydney over 300 Delta variant cases in a suburb.
But Australia’s vaccine situation – less than 10% of the total population is fully vaccinated – is far different than what we have in the US, which is slowly approaching half of the total population.
The vaccines are effective against the Delta variant, but perhaps not quite as effective. A report from Israel suggests the Pfizer vaccine protected 64% of people from infection with the Delta variant. But it was 94% effective at preventing severe illness, according to Israel.
Johnson & Johnson said last week that its one-dose vaccine offers eight months of protection and, according to the company, provides adequate protection against the Delta variant.
Vaccines remain the most important protection. Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infections Diseases, said nearly every American who died of Covid in June – there were around 10,000 – had not been vaccinated.
“If you look at the number of deaths, about 99.2% of them are unvaccinated. About 0.8% are vaccinated. No vaccine is perfect. But when you talk about the avoidability of hospitalization and death, Chuck, it’s really sad and tragic that most all of these are avoidable and preventable,” Fauci told Chuck Todd on “Meet the Press.”
Deaths have certainly fallen in the US. Covid was the seventh-leading cause of death in the US in June, according to a Kaiser Family Foundation review of CDC data.
Those deaths will not be evenly distributed across the country, however.
Read this CNN report on where the virus is spreading in the US: States with below-average vaccination rates have almost triple the rate of new Covid-19 cases compared to states with above-average vaccination rates, according to new data from Johns Hopkins University.
Case study: Arkansas, where less than 35% of residents were fully vaccinated Sunday, averaged 16 new cases per 100,000 residents every day over the past week, according to Johns Hopkins. That’s about five times the nationwide rate of new cases… And Arkansas is one of 10 states where the rate of new cases jumped more than 25% over the past week compared to the previous week. Of those 10 states, all but one – Delaware – had below-average vaccination rates.
“We’re already starting to see places with low vaccination rates starting to have relatively big spikes from the Delta variant. We’ve seen this in Arkansas, Missouri, Wyoming … those are the places where we’re going to see more hospitalizations and deaths as well, unfortunately,” Dr. Ashish Jha, dean of the Brown University School of Public Health, told CNN’s Madeline Holcombe.
Another state seeing increased Covid is Missouri, where Holcombe writes about a hospital system that is seeing fewer Covid cases than it did last year, but is struggling to find staff to treat them.