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White House COVID-19 team reports substantial increase in cases but not in deaths

White House COVID-19 team reports substantial increase in cases but not in deaths
Dr. Ashish Jha, White House coronavirus response coordinator, talks to reporters at the White House in Washington, D.C., on April 26, 2022. During a Wednesday White House COVID-19 briefing, Dr. Jha said the United States is seeing a very substantial increase in COVID-19 infections. Photo by Tasos Katopodis/UPI | License Photo

May 18 (UPI) -- U.S. cases of COVID-19 are substantially higher but there is no commensurate increase in COVID-19 deaths, White House coronavirus response coordinator Dr. Ashish Jha said during a briefing Wednesday.

Jha reported a dramatic increase in Paxlovid prescriptions to treat COVID-19.

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"I think that is actually a really important reason why despite the very substantial increase in infections we have not seen a commensurate increase in deaths," he said.

"Over the past five weeks we've seen a steady increase in COVID-19 cases. While cases remain much lower than the Omicron surge this past winter, the current seven-day daily average of cases is now at about 94,000 cases per day," CDC Director Dr. Rachelle Walensky said during Wednesday's briefing.

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Walensky said hospital admissions are also increasing, averaging about 3,000 per day. That's a roughly 19% increase over the previous week.

Roughly 275 people a day are still dying from COVID-19 in the United States, according to Wednesday's White House COVID-19 briefing.

Over 32% of Americans live in communities with medium or high COVID-19 community levels.

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While acknowledging that people are tired of the COVID-19 pandemic and want to move on, the doctors delivering the White House COVID-19 briefing agreed that the fight against COVID-19 is not over.

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Jha said the higher infection rates are primarily driven by highly contagious COVID-19 subvariants.

Walensky said vaccines remain generally effective but since vaccine immunity wanes, boosters are important.

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According to CDC data, 62% of adults ages 50-64 have not gotten a COVID-19 vaccine dose in the past six months. Among people 65 and older, 57% have gone more than six months since their last vaccine dose.

Walensky urged Americans to use the full menu of anti-COVID-19 tools including vaccines, boosters and masks to prevent "further infection and severe disease."

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said more resources are needed from Congress to make sure that new vaccines and treatments are available in the fall and winter.

"The development of next-generation vaccines and therapeutics is critical," Fauci said. "And in order to do that we need the resources that we've been asking for."

Fauci agreed with Jha that there is no domestic-only strategy to a global pandemic, so the U.S. must remain globally as well as domestically engaged against COVID-19.

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