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U.S. COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations spiking despite expanding vaccine access

March 28 (UPI) — New COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and instances of variants are up in the United States as the nation looks to make vaccines against the virus more widely available.

More than 410,000 people tested positive for COVID-19 this past week, a 9% increase from the previous week and hospitalizations saw a 2% increase with 33,000 additional admissions during the same period, according to a report by the White House COVID-19 team.

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“When you’re coming down from a big peak and you reach a point and start to plateau, once you stay at that plateau, you’re really in danger of a surge coming up and unfortunately that’s what we’re starting to see,” Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases told CBS News Face the Nation.

The United States reported 62,062 new cases and 741 deaths on Saturday, bringing its world-leading totals to 30,237,545 infections and a death toll of 549,155 according to data gathered by Johns Hopkins University. Cases are up from 54,449 last year with deaths about the same at 776.

The number of cases caused by variants first discovered in foreign nations also increased with 8,337 cases of the British B.1.1.7 variant reported in 51 states and territories up from 5,567 last week, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. There were 266 cases of the South African B.1.351 variant in 29 jurisdictions, up from 180, and 79 cases of the Brazilian P.1 variant in 19 jurisdictions after 48 last week.

The increase in cases comes despite the United States ranking among world leaders in vaccinations with at least 27.6% of the population having received at least one vaccine dose, trailing only Britain at 44.5%.

To date 180,646,465 vaccine doses have been delivered and 143,462,691 have been administered with 15.5% of the population fully vaccinated, according to the CDC.

About 2.5 million Americans are vaccinated each day as President Joe Biden doubled his goal for total vaccinations to 200 million within his first 100 days in office and at least 34 states plan to make all adults eligible to receive COVID-19 vaccines by mid-April, in line with Biden plans to open up vaccinations to all by May 1.

Fauci said the vaccination rate “invariably” will drive the rate and level of daily infections to a “much lower level” presenting the possibility of children returning to summer camps and other activities resuming in the coming months.

“If we get into the summer and you have a considerable percentage of the population vaccinated and the level in the community gets below that plateau that’s worrying me and my colleagues in public health, it is conceivable that you would have a good degree flexibility during the summer,” he said.

California continues to lead the nation in cases and deaths, adding 2,998 cases on Sunday to bring its total to 3,562,191 and 195 deaths for 57,746 since the start of the pandemic. The state has administered 17,136,841 vaccine doses with 6,165,743 people fully vaccinated.

Texas added 1,918 COVID-19 cases on Sunday for a total of 2,386,312 — trailing only California — and its death toll rose by 63 to 47,156. To date, Texas has administered 10,469,505 vaccine doses and 3,683,989 people have been fully vaccinated.

Third-ranked Florida added 4,943 new COVID-19 cases Sunday and 36 resident deaths for a total of 2,044,005 infections and 33,178 resident fatalities. The state did not report vaccination info on Sunday due to system maintenance, but had administered 8,469,948 COVID-19 doses with 3,075,333 people fully vaccinated as of Saturday.

New York ranks fourth in cases reporting 9,395 infections for a total of 1,835,940 in addition to 64 deaths to bring its toll to 49,928. A total of 8,885,551 vaccine doses have been administered in the state with 16.3% of the state’s population fully vaccinated.

Illinois ranks fifth in infections adding 2,250 cases for a total of 1,237,828 and 23 new fatalities to bring its death toll to 21,251. Illinois has administered 5,528,422 vaccine doses, with 2,063,530 people fully vaccinated.

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