“We’re heading into a rough time. It’s likely, if our trajectory is similar to that in the United Kingdom, that we could see as many as 200,000 cases a day,” Dr. Tom Frieden said, adding the US likely won’t see the “horrific death tolls” of earlier in the pandemic thanks to the number of vulnerable people who are vaccinated.
But, he said, “You will see a steady increase in deaths, and these are preventable deaths.”
The last time there were more than 200,000 new US cases in one day was in January, according to Johns Hopkins University data.
The Delta variant is believed to be more transmissible than other strains — so much so, Frieden said, that it is essentially finding people who are unvaccinated.
Director of the Vaccine Education Center at Children’s Hospital of Pennsylvania, Dr. Paul Offit, said vaccination rates have hit a wall and that could have serious consequences.
“Now we are at a point where there is a solid 25 or 30 percent of the population that’s saying they don’t want to get vaccinated, that they are okay with allowing this virus to continue to spread, continue to do harm and, worst of all, continue to possibly create variants that are going to be resistant to vaccine-induced immunity,” he said.
And vaccinated people will likely pay a price for those choices, CNN Medical Analyst Dr. Leana Wen said. Even though vaccines offer strong protection against the virus, being surrounded by unvaccinated people could lead to infection spillover, and vaccinated people could get sick or pass on the infection to their loved ones, she said.
“By people saying ‘I’m not going to get vaccinated,’ they’re actually choosing to endanger everybody else, and they are prolonging the pandemic,” Wen said.
Despite the risk posed by a large swath of unvaccinated people, Frieden said vaccines are still helping to mitigate the impacts of the pandemic.
“For every (case) that ends in death in the coming weeks, there would have been hundreds that end in death if there hadn’t been vaccinations,” Frieden said.
Government bodies start to embrace vaccination requirements
Some health experts have suggested mandating that people be vaccinated in order to work in certain venues or attend school could be a measure necessary to getting the country to a fully protective level of vaccination. Now, some government entities are taking the suggestion.
In August, California will require all state employees and health care workers to provide proof of vaccination status or get regular tests, Gov. Gavin Newsom said Monday.
Unvaccinated state employees will be required to get tested at least once a week and will be required to wear N95 masks at all times. Unvaccinated health care workers will have to get tested at least two times a week, state health officials said.
A similar requirement will be implemented in New York City, where all of the workforce for the city’s agencies, including schools, fire and police, will be given the choice between vaccination or regular testing, Mayor Bill de Blasio said.
“We’re mandating vaccines for Title 38 employees because it’s the best way to keep Veterans safe, especially as the Delta variant spreads across the country,” McDonough said.
Despite initial reluctance to support vaccine mandates, the White House said Monday it supports the call made Monday by a large collective of medical associations that vaccines be mandated for all US health personnel.
“These actions, in our view, are meant to keep patients and employees safe and in fact, I expect our own federal health care providers may look at similar requirements as they do with other vaccines,” White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said. “We certainly believe that health officials are on the front lines of being vulnerable to getting Covid and we certainly support these actions by these hospital associations.”
Getting the unvaccinated to mask up
As long as vaccination rates are low and if cases continue to surge, some experts say returning to masks may be a necessary layer of protection for everyone.
“The only way to get the unvaccinated to mask up is to mask everyone up,” Reiner said Sunday.
Several places have made the push to get their residents back in face coverings.
A group of eight health directors in the Puget Sound area of Washington state are recommending masking indoors regardless of vaccination status.
The city of Savannah, Georgia, has moved beyond recommendations, instead reinstating a mask mandate effective immediately.
During a press conference on Monday, Savannah Mayor Van Johnson said everyone, regardless of vaccination status, is required to wear facial coverings inside all city government facilities, as well as Savannah city schools and early childhood centers. The mandate does not apply to private businesses or institutions, but the mayor is strongly encouraging owners to implement the mask requirement.
Schmitt blasted the reinstated mask mandate as “unreasonable, arbitrary, and capricious, unconstitutional, and unlawful,” in a statement Monday evening.
“This continued government overreach is unacceptable and unconstitutional, especially in the face of a widely available vaccine,” Schmitt said in the statement announcing the lawsuit. “There is absolutely no scientific reason to continue to force children to wear a mask in school,” he added.
CNN’s Deidre McPhillips, Kevin Liptak, Sarah Moon, Jenn Selva, Tina Burnside and Keith Allen contributed to this report.