Coronavirus Update: Delta cases most prevalent in Kansas City and Denver regions

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New daily COVID-19 cases and deaths jumped to six-week highs, as the delta variant has continued to spread rapidly to become the dominant strain in the U.S.

There were at least 23,549 new COVID-19 cases on Tuesday, according to a New York Times tracker, the most since new cases totaled 27,747 on May 27. Deaths climbed to at least 714 on Tuesday, the first time the U.S.’s daily death toll topped the 700 mark since it reached 759 on May 28.

The seven-day average of new daily cases rose to 12,914 on Tuesday from 11,797 on Monday, and was 14% above where it was two weeks ago. The seven-day average of deaths climbed to 250 on Tuesday from 194, but was down 19% from two weeks ago.

The rise in cases and deaths comes as the highly transmissible delta variant of SARS-CoV-2 has fast become the dominant strain in the U.S., accounting for more than half of recent new cases.

Delta, also known as the B.1.617.2 strain, has accounted for 51.7% of COVID-19 cases in the U.S. over the two-week period through July 3, according to data provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. A month ago, the delta variant accounted for just 10.1% of COVID-19 cases.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

The parts of the U.S. in which the delta variant accounts for the highest percentage of COVID-19 cases are in the central regions, with the Department of Health and Human Services Region 7, surrounding Kansas City, Mo., at 80.7% and the department’s Region 8 surrounding Denver at 74.3%.

If there is good news, the way to combat the new variant is the same as for the original form of the novel coronavirus: by getting vaccinated. Early studies have shown that COVID-19 vaccines authorized for emergency use in the U.S., from Pfizer Inc. PFE, +0.15% and partner BioNTech SE BNTX, -3.55%, Moderna Inc. MRNA, -4.90% and Johnson & Johnson JNJ, +0.86%, provide protection against the delta variant.

Don’t miss: As worries emerge about the delta variant and the J&J shot, health officials — and, so far, the research — say the vaccinated are still protected.

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At minimum the vaccines appear to reduce severe COVID-19 cases. “They are nearly 100% effective against severe disease and death, meaning nearly every death due to COVID-19 is preventable,” the CDC said in a statement.

However, the pace of vaccinations has slowed, particularly among younger adults.

In total, 157.64 million Americans, or 47.5% of the total U.S. population, have been fully vaccinated, CDC data show. Among those 18 years of age and older, 150.57 million people, or 58.3% of that population, have been vaccinated, while 157.51 million people aged at least 12 years, or 55.5% of that population, have been fully vaccinated.

In the U.S., fully vaccinated means it has been two weeks since receiving a second shot of the two-dose vaccines developed by Pfizer with BioNTech or Moderna, or it’s been two weeks since receiving the lone required dose of J&J’s vaccine.

Johns Hopkins University & Medicine

There are 11 states in which more than half the entire population has been fully vaccinated, led by Vermont at 60% and Massachusetts at 58.3%. Meanwhile, there are five states in which less than a third of the population has been fully vaccinated, with Mississippi at 27.9% and Alabama at 30.8% having the lowest percentages.

Latest tallies

The global tally for the coronavirus-borne illness rose to 184.82 million on Wednesday, while deaths climbed to 3,996,385, according to Johns Hopkins University data.

The U.S. still leads the world in total cases at 33.75 million and in deaths, which now total 606,046.

India is second in total cases at 30.66 million and third by fatalities at 404,211.

Brazil has had the third highest number of cases at 18.86 million, according to Johns Hopkins data, and is second in deaths at 526,892.

Mexico has the fourth highest death toll at 233,958 but is 15th in cases at 2.55 million.

In Europe, Russia continues to pull ahead of the U.K. by deaths. Russia now has recorded 137,718 fatalities, while the U.K. has had 128,565, making Russia the country with the fifth highest death toll in the world and the highest in Europe.

China, where the virus was first discovered late in 2019, has had 103,949 confirmed cases and 4,848 deaths, according to its official numbers, which are widely held to be underreported.

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