US 'Strike Teams' to Fight Delta COVID in 1000 Counties

Lindsay Kalter

July 01, 2021

Editor's note: Find the latest COVID-19 news and guidance in Medscape's Coronavirus Resource Center.

The White House on Thursday announced it will send "strike teams" to 1000 counties where the COVID-19 Delta variant is spreading rapidly.

The teams will be made up of health and logistics experts from several federal agencies and will conduct coronavirus testing, distribute medicines designed to fight the virus, and boost local and state efforts to increase vaccinations.

The highly contagious Delta COVID-19 variant is on its way to outpacing the original strain in the United States, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced Thursday.

"The Delta variant is predicted to be second most prevalent variant in the US," CDC Director Rochelle Walensky, MD, said at a news conference. "I expect in the coming weeks it'll eclipse the alpha variant."

Walensky said that an estimated 25% of sequenced COVID-19 cases in the United States are of the Delta variant. In some regions of the country, the strain comprises 1 in 2 cases, she said.

"Looking across the country, we have made incredible progress," she said. "However, looking state by state and county by country, it is clear communities where people remain unvaccinated are communities that are vulnerable."

Walensky also reported a 10% increase in the 7-day average of reported infections ― a possible result of Delta's recent spread.

In approximately 1000 counties in the United States, vaccination coverage is less than 30%, Walensky said, including areas of Oklahoma, Missouri, and Texas.

Health officials in Los Angeles County, along with the World Health Organization (WHO), have recently recommended a return to masking for vaccinated people. However, top infectious disease expert Anthony Fauci, MD, said the CDC still advises only unvaccinated individuals to wear masks in most situations.

The reason for WHO's stricter guidance is that infection rates worldwide are higher than in the United States, Fauci said.

"The WHO is responsible for the planet as a whole," he said at the news conference. "As we've always said, you can make general guidelines, but you have to be flexible at various levels," including at the country, state, and community levels, he said.

Currently, 67% of American adults have received at least one shot.

Lindsay Kalter is a health freelance journalist who has held positions with Politico, the Boston Herald, and the American Heart Association. Aside from WebMD and Medscape, her work has appeared in publications including The Washington Post, Boston Globe Magazine and Business Insider.

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