WASHINGTON (NEXSTAR) — While the White House acknowledges it won’t meet its goal of vaccinating 70% of Americans by the Fourth of July, federal health officials say fireworks and parties can still go forward this year.
“Please enjoy a safe family- and friend-filled holiday weekend,” U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Rochelle Walensky said during the White House COVID-19 Response Team’s Thursday press conference.
The CDC continues to remind people that those who are not vaccinated should continue to wear masks around others, but that those who are vaccinated don’t need to.
Walensky said Americans should be proud of the dramatic progress made in the last six months. Since January, COVID-19-related deaths have plummeted more than 90%.
But the virus is making a comeback, driven by the more transmissible delta variant, which Walensky said she expects to soon surpass the alpha variant as the dominant strain in the nation.
“It is clear that communities where people remain unvaccinated are communities that remain vulnerable,” Walensky said.
CDC data shows hospitalizations and deaths are now trending up.
“We are celebrating as a country at the same time as we recognize the fact that we’re in a serious situation for those who have not been vaccinated,” Dr. Anthony Fauci, a member of the White House task force and the nation’s top expert on infectious diseases, said. “The good news is we have a solution.”
He said early data shows all three vaccines available in the U.S. can protect people from the delta variant.
“It works, it’s free, it’s safe,” he said of getting vaccinated.
The Biden administration is working to combat the uptick in cases, announcing plans to surge resources to communities emerging as virus hot spots. Health officials say many of those communities are in the Midwest and Southeast.
Officials continue to emphasize the importance of getting vaccinated, saying data from the last six months shows 99.5% of COVID-19-related deaths have been of people who are not vaccinated.