Officials said most new infections are occurring in younger adults, and are likely due to fast-spreading variants.
For a fourth week in a row, the numbers of COVID-19 cases and hospitalisations have been on the rise in the United States, White House officials said on Monday, while the number of deaths has been decreasing.
Rochelle Walensky, head of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said that there are now on average 64,000 new cases of the coronavirus every day, a seven percent increase from the previous week. Deaths at an average of 800 a day, she said, have been on the decline.
Walensky said that the increased number of cases is predominantly occurring among younger adults, as states, businesses and schools have been gradually reopening. And it is believed to be caused, at least in part, by highly infectious variants.
“As the trends and data have been indicating, cases are increasing nationally and we are seeing this occur predominantly in younger adults,” Walensky said during a COVID-19 task force news conference.
“We know that these increases are due in part to more highly transmissible variants which we are closely monitoring,” she said.
Officials said that despite the rise in cases and hospitalisations, the nation has been making steady gains in its efforts to vaccinate Americans. According to the CDC, more than 165 million doses have so far been administered.
White House COVID-19 adviser Andy Slavitt said the US is currently administering an average of 3.1 million doses a day. And that nearly one in three adults has received at least one shot. He said 55 percent of seniors, those aged 65 and older, are fully vaccinated and 75 percent have received at least one dose.
“We’re headed in the right direction,” Slavitt said during the news briefing. “But we’re not there yet,” he warned.
“The war against COVID-19 is far from over, far from won,” Slavitt said. “The worst thing we can do right now would be to mistake progress for victory.”
Many states have been making steady progress in their vaccination efforts and several in recent weeks have expanded their eligibility requirements to everyone over the age of 16. Other states are still vaccinating front-line workers and those with underlying health issues.
The US has so far given emergency authorisations to three vaccines: Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson. The US may also authorise the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine, further increasing the nation’s supply. The US is expected to have a surplus of vaccines by the second half of 2021.
US President Joe Biden, who took office in January, has set a goal to have all states offering vaccinations to anyone who wants it by May. He also set July 4, US Independence Day, as a date when Americans should be able to return to a semblance of normality.
More than 555,000 Americans have died from the coronavirus – more than any other country in the world – according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University.