(CNN) — As the delta variant spreads rapidly, US hotspots have seen an increase in COVID-19 cases, with one expert warning that a “surprising number” of deaths from the virus could soon occur.
The United States averages 19,455 new cases in the past seven days, a 47% increase from the previous week, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. And a third of them, said CNN medical analyst Dr. Jonathan Reiner, come from five hotspots: Florida, Louisiana, Arkansas, Missouri and Nevada.
“In places like Missouri, where ICUs are full, you’re going to see a surprising number of deaths,” Reiner said Sunday.
At Mercy Hospital in Springfield, Missouri, 91% of ICU patients use ventilators and many are in their 20s, 30s and 40s, Managing Director Erik Frederick told CNN on Saturday. That’s especially concerning, he said, because at last year’s peak there were only 40-50% of ICU patients on ventilators.
Typically, increases in COVID-19 death rates follow three to four weeks after spikes in cases, Reiner said. It takes a week for patients to get sick enough to need hospitalization, and then often a couple more weeks for the infection to become fatal.
“We will start to see an increase in mortality in this country,” Reiner said.
What’s particularly frustrating for many experts, Reiner said, is that the deaths are “completely preventable” now that vaccines are available.
But about a third of people 12 and older in the US have yet to get the vaccine, CDC data shows.
“The vaccines that we have work very well against this variant. It doesn’t have to be that way,” Reiner said.
Experts weigh whether vaccinations should be mandatory
Many of the increasing cases have been attributed to the now dominant delta variant, which is believed to be more transmissible. And this variant has sparked discussions about vaccination orders at the local level.
Across the United States, 48% of the population is fully vaccinated, but in some states that number is much lower, according to CDC data. Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana, Wyoming, and Mississippi have about 35% or less of their populations fully vaccinated.
Experts say vaccines are key to controlling the spread. Since information changes rapidly, it’s important to be smart about how vaccinations are made mandatory, said George Washington University School of Medicine professor Dr. Gigi El-Bayoumi.
“In states where there are high vaccination rates, like 75 or more, it makes sense to loosen restrictions. In places where there are none, like some of the southern states, it makes sense” to require vaccinations, El-Bayoumi said Sunday. .
Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institutes of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told CNN that he thinks local enforcement is a good idea.
“We are talking about a life or death situation. We have already lost 600,000 Americans and we are still losing more people. There have been 4 million deaths worldwide,” Fauci said. “This is a serious matter”.
He added that he hopes the vacillation over the mandatory vaccine will disappear when the vaccines are fully approved.
Right now, available COVID-19 vaccines are being administered under emergency use authorizations, which Fauci says has left some people skeptical of their safety and efficacy. But the amount of data supporting the importance and safety of vaccines is more than anything experts have seen for any emergency use authorization, he said.
“These vaccines are officially approved with all points on the i’s,” Fauci said.
Pfizer will inform the US about a possible reinforcement
Another concern for many experts as the variants spread is whether the population will need boosters for their vaccines.
Pfizer will inform US government officials virtually Monday night about the possible need for booster shots of its COVID-19 vaccine, a company spokesperson and two Pfizer officials confirmed to CNN. administration.
The meeting is considered a courtesy and the federal guidance on reinforcements is not expected to change immediately afterwards, a senior health official said.
Last week, Pfizer / BioNTech reiterated its expectation that people may need boosters for their vaccines in six months to a year, citing the decreased immunity they are seeing among people who received their vaccine. The company also said it would seek emergency use authorization for a boost from the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in August.
But some experts have argued that the data shows that the reinforcements are not needed yet.
“Americans who have been fully vaccinated do not need a booster shot at this time,” said the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the FDA. “The FDA, CDC, and NIH (the National Institutes of Health) are engaged in a rigorous science-based process to consider whether a boost might be necessary.”
Fauci also questioned the need for backup at this time, during CNN’s “State of the Union.”
“Given the data and information that we have, we don’t need to give people a third injection, a booster, superimposed on the two doses that they receive with the mRNA (Pfizer / BioNTech and Moderna vaccine) and the dose that they receive with (Johnson & Johnson), “he told CNN’s Jake Tapper.
Fauci said there are ongoing studies evaluating whether and when the United States will recommend booster vaccines.
CNN’s Ben Tinker, Kaitlan Collins, Veronica Stracqualursi, and Amanda Sealy contributed to this report.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism