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Delta variant: Why the respiratory illness is so easily transmissible

The Delta variant is one of the most contagious respiratory illnesses. Find out why it’s easily transmissible.

Just the FAQs, USA TODAY

Tallahassee Memorial HealthCare’s chief communications officer sounded the alarm on COVID-19 hospitalizations Sunday as the hospital reached 70 patients in its COVID unit – an increase of 11 in just two days since Friday and the highest the hospital has seen since the start of the pandemic in early 2020. 

“This is the most we’ve ever had,” Stephanie Derzypolski said, adding that their previous highest number of hospitalizations was 51.

The state on Sunday broke its record for current hospitalizations, a day after Florida recorded the most daily cases since the start of the pandemic. 10,207 people in Florida are hospitalized with confirmed COVID-19 cases, according to data reported to the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services; the previous record of 10,170 hospitalizations was from July 23, 2020 — more than a half-year before vaccinations started becoming widespread — according to the Florida Hospital Association. 

Florida leads the nation in per capita hospitalizations for COVID-19.

The vast majority of the patients hospitalized now, according to Derzypolski, are unvaccinated.

“This is no longer people with co-morbidities in their 70s and 80s but otherwise healthy people in their 20s 30s and 40s,” Derzypolski said in a Facebook post Sunday. “These people come in begging our doctors for the vaccine but it is too late for them.”

– Tori Lynn Schneider, Tallahassee Democrat

Also in the news:

►Germany’s government will recommend offering the coronavirus vaccine for all 12- to 17-year-olds on Monday, according to a draft resolution ahead of a planned meeting of state-level health ministers. They also plan to offer boosters to high-risk individuals starting in September.

►The Navajo Nation has reported 25 additional COVID-19 cases and officials say some tribal members are foregoing needed precautions to ward off the spread of the coronavirus.

►New Orleans’ emergency medical responders have been slammed by a spike in COVID cases in the region, so much so that the city doesn’t have the capacity to handle 911 calls, the mayor announced in a news conference Friday. 

►The University of South Carolina is requiring students to wear masks indoors this fall as the spread of COVID-19 has sped up across the state. Public colleges and universities in South Carolina can’t require students to get inoculated after lawmakers banned schools from making the vaccine a condition of enrollment.

►More than 816K vaccine doses were reported administered Sunday, including 517K newly vaccinated. Since July 5, vaccinations have been slowly ramping up across the nation, COVID-19 Data Director Cyrus Shahpar said on Twitter.

📈Today’s numbers: The U.S. has had more than 34.9 million confirmed COVID-19 cases and 613,200 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University data. The global totals: More than 198.2 million cases and 4.2 million deaths. More than 164.7 million Americans — 49.6% of the population — have been fully vaccinated, according to the CDC.

📘What we’re reading: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced in May that fully vaccinated individuals didn’t need to wear masks in most settings — but that guidance changed Tuesday in light of new data and rising cases. Here’s where states stand on mask requirements. 

Keep refreshing this page for the latest news. Want more? Sign up for USA TODAY’s Coronavirus Watch newsletter to receive updates directly to your inbox and join our Facebook group.

The U.S. likely won’t see the lockdowns that plagued the nation last year despite surging infections, but “things are going to get worse,” Dr. Anthony Fauci warned Sunday.

Fauci, making the rounds on morning news shows, noted that half of Americans have been vaccinated. That, he said, should be enough people to avoid drastic measures. But not enough to crush the outbreak.

“We are looking, not I believe to lockdowns, but to some pain and suffering in the future,” Fauci said on ABC’s “This Week.” 

Fauci acknowledged that some breakthrough infections are occurring among the vaccinated. No vaccine is 100% effective, he noted. But he stressed the Biden administration’s recurring theme that vaccinated people who do become infected are far less likely to become seriously ill than unvaccinated people who become infected.

“From the standpoint of illness, hospitalization, suffering and death, the unvaccinated are much more vulnerable,” Fauci said. “The unvaccinated, by not being vaccinated, are allowing the propagation and the spread of the outbreak.”

The CDC has brought back guidelines recommending masks for vaccinated individuals in areas of substantial spread of the virus.

“That has much more to do with transmission,” Fauci said of the new guidelines. “You want them to wear a mask, so that if in fact they do get infected, they don’t spread it to vulnerable people, perhaps in their own household, children or people with underlying conditions.”

Iowa might have to throw out tens of thousands of doses of the vaccine over the next six weeks. Last week, El Paso threw out nearly 4,000. And in Arkansas, more than 80,000 doses expired this week. 

“Prior to the vaccine, I was heartsick because people died and we couldn’t help them. Now, they don’t get the vaccine and we can’t help them,” Tammy Kellebrew, a pharmacist who travels to rural hospitals across the state, told Houston Public Media. “And so after every death, I go back to the pharmacy and I cry, and then I go back to work.”

A survey reported by the New York Times says that over a million doses have been thrown away in 10 states since vaccines were first administered. Much of the loss comes from lagging demand in recent months.

According to an Axios/Ipsos tracking poll, only 37% of adults said they were extremely or very concerned about the pandemic, the highest percentage since mid-May. The data showed that the percentage of those concerned is rising in vaccinated adults, but not in unvaccinated adults.

The data showed that 44% of vaccinated adults polled in July were concerned about the vaccine, up eight percentage points since June. The percentage of unvaccinated adults concerned remained at a stable 23% from June to July, according to the data.

Fifty-four percent of vaccinated adults were concerned about the delta variant while 25% of unvaccinated adults reported they were concerned, the data showed. While COVID-19 cases grow across the nation with the spread of the delta variant, the data suggests many unvaccinated people are unafraid.

According to the CDC, the 7-day average of new cases increased about 64% last week with over 66,000 new cases in the U.S. during the time frame. The CDC put a new mast guidance Monday to minimize the spread of COVID-19.

CDC’s latest mask guidelines arrive as COVID cases rise even in vaccinated people, suggesting that even those who are inoculated wear a mask indoors. Despite the guidance shared Tuesday, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott issued an executive order Thursday that prohibited local governments and state agencies from mandating vaccines and masks.

“The new executive order emphasizes that the path forward relies on personal responsibility rather than government mandates,” Abbott said in a news release. “Texans have mastered the safe practices that help to prevent and avoid the spread of COVID-19.” 

A third wave of coronavirus cases, made up mainly of unvaccinated residents, is being driven by the unbridled spread of the delta variant, a mutation of the original coronavirus strain that has federal health experts alarmed about how contagious it is.

The Department of State Health Services reported Friday that 5,846 patients were in Texas hospitals for COVID-19. That’s more than twice as many as two weeks ago, almost four times as many as a month ago, and the most since the end of February.

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