Delta Variant Threat Looms, U.S. COVID Cases More Than Double in a Week

Amid the ongoing threat of the Delta variant, COVID-19 cases in the U.S. have increased by more than 130 percent in a week, according to the latest data compiled by the World Health Organization.

According to WHO, in the week starting July 19 (Monday), total confirmed cases in the country were reported to be at 500,332—a 131.17 percent weekly increase from the week starting July 12, when the weekly count was at 216,433.

That marks nearly 284,000 new infections in a week's time.

The latest data from WHO indicated the U.S. weekly case total has been rising from the week commencing June 21, after declining from mid-April. The figure dipped on a sharper incline from January this year through mid-February before flattening through mid-April.

According to data compiled by Worldometer, the seven-day average of cases in the U.S. has been rising on a sharper incline from early July, after mostly declining for months from January.

Estimated daily infections in the U.S. are forecast to hit a peak by late August, according to data from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) at the University of Washington.

On Tuesday, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention updated its mask guidelines. The federal body advised fully vaccinated people who are in an area of "substantial or high transmission" to wear masks indoors to "maximize protection from the Delta variant" and prevent spreading infection.

The CDC says nearly 47 percent of U.S. counties are considered areas of "high transmission," while 17 percent are considered areas with "substantial" risk of transmission.

Crowds at Santa Monica Pier in California.
Crowds seen at the Santa Monica Pier in Santa Monica, California on Memorial Day (May 31) this year as COVID-19 restrictions are relaxed. David McNew/AFP via Getty Images

According to a July 21 report on the CDC website showing forecasts from 26 modeling groups, the number of newly reported COVID-19 infections "will remain stable or have an uncertain trend over the next four weeks, with 92,000 to 803,000 new cases likely reported in the week ending August 14, 2021."

According to forecasts from 32 modeling groups published at the CDC website on July 21, the number of newly reported COVID-19 deaths "will likely increase over the next 4 weeks, with 1,200 to 5,300 new deaths likely reported in the week ending August 14."

A total of 615,000 to 625,000 COVID-19 deaths is also projected to be reported by this date, according to the CDC website.

The latest data from the IHME projects the estimated daily infections in the U.S. will reach a peak around August 19 before flattening out through November 1.

The country's reported daily death toll is projected to peak by around September 14 before it flattens out through November 1, according to the IHME.

The current projections for estimated daily infections as well as for the reported daily death toll are based on the assumption that "vaccine distribution is scaled up over 90 days" and "variant B.1.1.7 continues to spread in certain locations," the IHME explains.

The 90-day period refers to "the time it takes to scale up to full capacity for [vaccine] distribution. So for example, in the reference scenario, the maximum number of doses per day is three million, and that scenario assumes 90 days to reach three million doses per day," a spokesperson for the IHME previously told Newsweek.

The IHME's projected figures for estimated daily infections and the reported daily death count in the U.S. remain the same for the "worst case scenario," which is a situation where "in those who are vaccinated, mobility moves towards pre-COVID-19 levels," according to the IHME.

Signs for COVID safety measures in California.
Signs reminding people to maintain a social distance and to wear face masks seen at a mall in Monterey Park, California on June 14. Frederic J. Brown/AFP via Getty Images

The Wider Picture

Coronavirus has infected more than 195.3 million people since it was first reported in Wuhan, China, including over 34.6 million in the U.S. More than 4.1 million people have died and over 3.9 billion COVID-19 vaccine doses have been administered worldwide, as of Wednesday, according to Johns Hopkins University.

The graphic below, produced by Statista, shows the seven-day average of COVID-19 vaccine doses administered and the share of the fully vaccinated U.S. population.

U.S. vaccine rollout slows down.

The graphic below, also produced by Statista, shows the share of the population who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 in different countries.

COVID-19 vaccination rate worldwide