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Delta variant accounts for 83% of COVID cases in U.S., CDC director says

Delta variant accounts for over 80% of COVID cases
Delta variant now accounts for more than 80% of COVID cases 02:29

There's an alarming jump in COVID-19 cases across the U.S. New infections are up by more than 120% nationwide in the past month and the CDC director says the Delta variant accounts for 83% of infections. While nowhere near the highs of the pandemic, a fourth — and mostly preventable — wave is appearing. 

Across the country, vaccination rates have plunged since mid-April and the more contagious Delta variant has exploded.

"CDC has released estimates of variants across the country and predicted the Delta variant now represents 83% of sequenced cases. This is a dramatic increase, up from 50% for the week of July 3. In some parts of the country, the percentage is even higher, particularly in areas of low vaccination rates," CDC Director Rochelle Walensky said in a Senate hearing on Tuesday. 

Rochelle Walensky
CDC Director Rochelle Walensky seen on July 20, 2021.  J. Scott Applewhite/AP Photo/Bloomberg via Getty

In Florida, hospitals are preparing for the worst. At Miami's Jackson Health System, there's been a 111% jump in COVID patients over the last two weeks, meaning most visitors will be banned. About 95% of patients with the virus who are being treated there are unvaccinated.

"It's frustrating. It's passed beyond sadness," said Alix Zacharski, a nurse manager at the hospital. "The amount of disease they go through is incredible it's terrible, it's absolutely terrible."

Zacharski says the patients are coming in younger, and with the Delta variant, they're getting sicker, faster. "We just got a very young patient in her 20s. She has asthma, did not get vaccinated, and she ended up passing out, passing away," she said.

And it's not just South Florida. The state accounts for nearly 20% of the nation's new cases over the last week. 

In the Senate hearing in Washington, D.C., Senator Rand Paul and Dr. Anthony Fauci sparred over the origin of COVID. 

"Dr. Fauci, knowing that it is a crime to lie to Congress—," Paul said.

"Senator Paul, I have never lied before the Congress," Fauci said.

You are trying to obscure responsibility for four million people dying around the world from a pandemic—," Paul said. 

"I totally resent the lie you are now propagating and if anybody is lying here, senator, it is you," Fauci responded.  

Still, the biggest battle against COVID remains on the front lines. Zacharski, the nurse in Miami, said she doesn't believe COVID numbers will go down anytime soon.

A new lab study found that Johnson & Johnson's vaccine had elicited lower levels of protective antibodies against the Delta variant compared to the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines. However, it is unclear if the shot still provides enough protection or if a booster will be needed.

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