COVID-19 cases are on the rise across the nation, with outbreaks occurring in parts of the country with low vaccination rates, according to officials from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
As of July 22, 35% of counties in the United States were experiencing high levels of community transmission, and COVID-19 cases were on the rise in 90% of the nation’s jurisdictions, according to a CDC interpretative summary of the week’s data.
That July 23 briefing, posted on the CDC’s website, notes that “the worrisome trends are due, in part,” to the rapid spread of the highly transmissible Delta variant.
The increase in COVID-19 infections is being observed locally, too.
Officials with AdventHealth’s West Florida region are noticing “a significant uptick in COVID-19 cases” and “an increase in COVID hospitalizations at its hospitals in Hillsborough, Pasco, Hardee, Highlands, Pinellas and Marion counties, according to a media briefing from the health care chain.
“The Delta variant is the most prominent strain we are seeing in our system,” AdventHealth reports.
It also notes that “some 94% of patients hospitalized with COVID-19” across its nationwide system have not been vaccinated.
“We continue to urge everyone who is eligible to get vaccinated, which is the most effective way to prevent hospitalization and death from COVID-19, as well as prevent new variants of the virus from spreading,” AdventHealth’s briefing adds.
The increase in cases is coming as schools gear up for the 2021-2022 school year.
Experts at the CDC have issued guidance for COVID-19 prevention in kindergarten through 12th grade schools.
That guidance says, in part, that “masks should be worn indoors by all individuals (age 2 and older) who are not fully vaccinated.”
The CDC also “recommends schools maintain at least 3 feet of physical distance between students within classrooms, combined with indoor mask-wearing by people who are not fully vaccinated, to reduce transmission risk.”
The American Academy of Pediatrics also advocates “keeping masks on in school and urging everyone who is eligible to get vaccinated against COVID-19” among its recommended interventions to prevent spreading the virus.
The Pasco and Hillsborough public school districts already have announced that masks would be optional in their schools during the upcoming school year.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis also has made it abundantly clear that he won’t support — and will actively battle — any attempts to make masks mandatory in the coming school year.
He addressed the issue during a news conference on July 22 at Indian River State College.
“We look forward to this upcoming year, to be a normal school year,” the governor said, during the conference, streamed by a television station covering the event.
“There’s been talk about people potentially advocating at the federal level imposing compulsory masks on kids. We’re not doing that in Florida, OK?
“We need our kids to be able to be kids. We need them to be able to breathe,” DeSantis said.
Parents can send their children to school with masks if they choose to do so, the governor said. He added, “But there shouldn’t be any coercive mandates on our schools.”
He elaborated on his opposition to requiring masks: “Is it really comfortable? Is it really healthy for them to be muzzled and have their breathing obstructed all day long in school? I don’t think it is,” DeSantis said.
If an attempt at a federal mandate is made, DeSantis pledged to fight it.
DeSantis went on to say: “If anybody is calling for lockdowns, you’re not getting that done in Florida. I’m going to protect people’s livelihoods. I’m going to protect kids’ rights to go to school. I’m going to protect people’s rights to run their small businesses.”
The governor also noted: “We have a situation where we have three vaccines that have been widely available for months and months, now.”
Contrary to what President Joe Biden said, DeSantis added, people who have been vaccinated have tested positive for COVID-19.
“But I think what it does do, is that it really prevents against severe outcomes, particularly death or a serious hospitalization,” the governor said.
For instance, “the nursing home fatalities are down 95% since the vaccines rolled out,” DeSantis said.
Health officials continue to urge vaccinations.
“The best way to slow the emergence of new variants is to reduce the spread of infection by taking measures to protect yourself, including getting a vaccine when it’s available to you,” the CDC’s summary says.
The Delta variant now makes up an estimated 83.2% of the recent U.S. cases, according to the July 23 CDC report.
Published July 28, 2021