“None of these patients thought they would get the virus, but the Delta variant has proven so highly contagious that even the young and healthy, including pregnant women, are now filling our hospitals,” said Dr. Neil Finkler, Chief Clinical Officer of AdventHealth Central Florida.
More than 90% of hospitalized Covid-19 patients are unvaccinated, he said.
In Austin, Texas: “Our ICU capacity is reaching a critical point where the risk has increased significantly for the entire community, not just those in need of treatment for COVID,” said Dr. Desmar Walkes, Austin-Travis County’s health department said in a statement.
“If we don’t come together as a community now, we are putting the lives of loved ones at risk who may need intensive care.”
In Mississippi, hospital admissions have increased significantly due to Covid-19 – including younger patients, said state health officer Thomas Dobbs. All 88 beds in the University of Mississippi Medical Center’s intensive care unit were occupied by Friday, according to the state’s Department of Health.
And in Louisiana, “we become victims of the unvaccinated,” said Dr. Christopher Thomas, Critical Care Physician at Our Lady of the Lake Regional Medical Center in Baton Rouge.
“We’re currently overwhelming our bed capacity. We’re creating burnout for our teams. And frankly, we’re starting to impact the rest of the community’s health care.”
At the Louisiana hospital, 97% of Covid-19 patients in the intensive care unit are unvaccinated, Thomas said. On Friday, the average age of Covid-19 patients in the intensive care unit was 48 years.
“That means there are children – with parents – who are now in the hospital,” he said.
With only 49.6% of Americans fully vaccinated on Sunday, more companies and cities like Birmingham, New Orleans and Louisville are issuing mask mandates to combat the Delta variant. The Delta strain is many times more contagious than the original strain of the novel coronavirus and appears to cause more serious illnesses, according to an internal presentation by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “In view of the higher transferability and the current vaccination density, universal masking is essential in order to reduce the transfer of the delta variant,” says the internal CDC documents.
Unvaccinated people cause a stricter mask requirement
Many of those who don’t wear masks or want to get vaccinated are prolonging the pandemic, doctors say.
“We know that the vast majority of the spread is still by unvaccinated people. And I think that’s the part that got lost on the CDC news, “said Dr. Leana Wen, visiting professor at George Washington University’s Milken Institute School of Public Health.
“The problem is not with the vaccinated. The problem remains with the unvaccinated. And the way out of this pandemic is to increase vaccination rates, ”she said.
“So the CDC should actually be saying, ‘Look, the reason we do indoor mandates is because you can’t trust the unvaccinated to put on masks. That’s why the vaccinated have to put on masks too.'”
Confusion about the new mask guidance explained
Many Americans were surprised to hear the CDC’s updated guidance that everyone – even people who are fully vaccinated – should wear face masks in areas with high or significant transmission.
To be clear, “The main thing is to protect the unvaccinated. This is where the really serious disease risks lie,” said Dr. Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health.
Those who are vaccinated are less likely to get infected, Collins said. When breakthrough infections occur in vaccinated individuals, they usually result in mild or no symptoms.
But vaccinated people with breakthrough infections could potentially spread Covid-19 just as easily as unvaccinated people, according to the CDC.
“High viral loads indicate an increased risk of transmission and gave cause for concern that, unlike other variants, people infected with Delta can transmit the virus,” said CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky on Friday.
This finding “was a critical discovery that led to the CDC’s updated mask recommendation,” said Walensky.
But Collins said it was important to emphasize how much more dangerous unvaccinated people are compared to vaccinated. He told those who are not vaccinated:
– Risk of infection three times higher.
– You are eight times more likely to get symptoms if you have an infection.
– Are 25 times more likely to be hospitalized with Covid-19.
“If someone who was on the fence is listening, now is a turning point,” said Collins. “Let’s try to get everyone out and be part of the winning team.”
In some places, vaccinations are increasing
As more Americans are educated about the Delta variant, vaccinations are increasing.
Nationwide, vaccination rates rose by more than 25% in the past week compared to three weeks ago.
In Alabama and Arkansas, each of which has about 35% of residents fully vaccinated, rates of newly administered doses have doubled compared to three weeks ago.
Ohio has seen “a significant increase” in vaccination rates, especially in rural areas, Republican Governor Mike DeWine said Sunday.
“I think … the fear of the Delta variant is certainly one of the causes,” said DeWine.
He said the state is now focusing on reaching out to the “undervaccinated” Medicaid population through incentives such as $ 100 in cash rewards for vaccination.
DeWine also praised the state’s “Vax-a-Million” program for vaccination booster programs.
“We assume that because of this, at least 100,000 additional people have been vaccinated,” said DeWine. “It was very, very successful.”
But “the game is still getting people vaccinated,” he said. “We have room to grow.”
CNN’s Deidre McPhillips, Lauren Mascarenhas, Jen Christensen, Melissa Alonso and Raja Razek contributed to this report.