However, vaccinating the remaining population isn’t the only issue looming over the Biden-Harris administration.
The current wave has now reignited a political controversy around mask-wearing, with some governors opposing all measures to make face masks mandatory despite advice from health authorities.
Here are the fresh developments …
130,000 new Covid cases a day
Daily cases in the US crossed the 150,000-mark on Wednesday, with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CD) issuing a warning that community transmission in the country is high.
Earlier, it took the US about nine months to reach 100,000 average daily cases in November. The daily average later declined to 11,000 per day in June. But as of August 18, the seven-day average of daily new cases is at 130,121.
This number is 13.2 per cent higher than the previous week, and 1,016.8 per cent higher than the lowest average in June.
Spike in Covid-related deaths
The US on Tuesday reported over 1,000 fresh Covid-19 deaths, amounting to nearly 42 fatalities an hour.
A combination of low vaccination rates and the highly transmissible Delta variant have resulted in a spike in deaths over the past month.
According to a Reuters tally, daily deaths average at 769 per day — the highest since mid-April.
Covid surge overwhelms hospitals
In chaos and panic somewhat reminiscent of the third Covid wave, the “pandemic of the unvaccinated” has pushed hospitals to the brink in many US states. This has led to a desperate scramble to find beds for patients.
Hospitals are already strained as emergency room volumes are back to pre-pandemic levels.
Last week alone, hospitals across the country saw over 75,000 coronavirus patients. In recent weeks, Florida, Arkansas, Oregon, Hawaii, Louisiana and Mississippi have set pandemic records for Covid hospitalizations.
Many overwhelmed hospitals were forced to send critically ill Covid-19 patients via planes, helicopters and ambulances to far-flung states for treatment.
According a report on The New York Times, the number of those patients who are critically ill, requiring treatment in an intensive care unit, has also risen.
Data from the Department of Health and Human Services shows that the number of hospitals with very full ICUs doubled in recent weeks.
Booster shots as Delta variant looms
Meanwhile, Covid-19 vaccine booster shots will be made widely available to Americans starting September 20.
The third shot will be offered to those who received their initial inoculation of two-dose vaccines made by Moderna Inc and by Pfizer Inc and BioNTech AG at least eight months prior.
The booster shots will initially focus on healthcare workers, nursing home residents and older people.
President Joe Biden confirmed he and his wife will get a Covid-19 booster shot following their first two doses in December.
The move comes after US health officials cited data showing diminishing protection from the initial vaccinations as infections from the Delta variant continue to rise.
War over masks deepens
The recent Covid-19 outbreak has triggered a fresh political war over mask mandates. With a new school year beginning in the US, Biden warned governors who opposed student mask requirements that they could face legal action.
Republican governors in Florida and Texas — which also happen to be Covid-19 hotspots — have rejected recommendations requiring students to wear masks in the classroom. In fact, Florida’s Board of Education this week voted to punish two school districts which established mask mandates.
“Unfortunately… some politicians are trying to turn public safety measures — that is, children wearing masks in school — into political disputes for their own political gain,” Biden had said during a White House address on Wednesday. “They’re setting a dangerous tone.”
The president further instructed secretary of education Miguel Cardona to use “legal action, if appropriate, against governors who are trying to block and intimidate local school officials and educators.”
(With inputs from agencies)