New York, Michigan, Florida, Pennsylvania and New Jersey had more than 196,400 of the country’s 453,360 cases reported in the last week, according to data available Wednesday morning.
Those states are home to just 22% of the US population, according to estimates from the US Census Bureau.
“Based on our most recent estimates from CDC surveillance, the B.1.1.7 variant is now the most common lineage circulating in the United States,” Walensky said at the White House Covid-19 response team briefing.
With more-transmissible variants adding up, surges like Michigan’s may soon be seen more widely, even though vaccination rates have increased nationally, epidemiologist Dr. Michael Osterholm said.
“I wish we had another three or four months before this B.1.1.7 variant surge started to occur,” Osterholm, director for the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota, said Tuesday.
The surge of variants in some states like Michigan should make the federal government think about shifting how it allocates vaccines, Dr. Ashish Jha, dean of the Brown School of Public Health, told CNN on Wednesday.
“So the federal strategy has to be to shift more vaccines to places like Michigan that are surging so they can use more vaccinations to stop that surge and save lives,” he said.
The CDC says more than 16,200 cases of the B.1.1.7 variant have been confirmed in surveillance testing in the US, and B.1.1.7 has been found in every state. This number does not represent the total number of such cases circulating in the United States, but rather only those found by analyzing samples.
CDC director: Decreasing number of daily deaths may be ‘an impact of vaccination’
While cases have been recently rising or plateauing, the number of daily Covid-19 deaths has been dropping.
The US has averaged 774 Covid-19 deaths a day over the last week — down 22% from the average the week prior, according to Johns Hopkins data.
It’s down even further from the first day of March, when the average was about 2,000 deaths a day.
At Wednesday’s briefing, Walensky attributed these dropping numbers to vaccinations.
“I’m really encouraged about these decreased numbers of deaths that I believe to be an impact of vaccination, especially the vaccination of our elderly communities,” Walensky said.
But, she added, current case counts are “way too high to be thinking that we’ve won this race.”
Half of US adults may have had their first shot by the weekend, White House says
By the end of the weekend, the US will be approaching nearly half of all adults having their first shot of a Covid-19 vaccine, a White House official said.
But progress on vaccines does not mean the country is finished with the pandemic, a Biden administration adviser said Tuesday.
“We do have to remember that there are 100 million-plus adults that still haven’t been vaccinated,” Andy Slavitt, White House senior adviser for Covid-19 response, told CNN’s Chris Cuomo. “They’re not there yet, and you don’t win the war until you bring everybody over with you.”
Some states are pulling back mask mandates and opening capacity for businesses. But Fauci said Tuesday that foregoing preventative measures while the majority of Americans are still unvaccinated is a mistake.
“It is premature to declare a victory,” said Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. “We’ve got to continue and hang in there a bit longer by continuing with the public health measures.”
The US still has tools to stay on course even if the public is fatigued, Slavitt said. Opening vaccine accessibility and focusing on some groups, as the US did to give 80% of teachers and school staff at least one shot amid calls for school to reopen, can help the nation continue to fight Covid-19, Slavitt said.
Plans to reopen as vaccinations increase
Though health experts caution the battle against Covid-19 is not yet won, many states have already reopened and others are planning to soon as well.
Falling infection rates, low hospitalizations and rising vaccinations are reasons why California can reopen, state Health and Human Services Secretary Mark Ghaly said.
By that time, Vermont officials anticipate roughly 70% of state residents will have received at least one vaccine dose.
Many school districts are also preparing to shift their plans. Of the 101 largest school districts in the country, more than half are offering a full in-person option, though full remote is still available to those families that choose it.
The moves comes as just over half of parents — 52% — said they are likely to get their children vaccinated against Covid-19 when a vaccine becomes available for their age group, according to results of a new Axios-Ipsos poll released Tuesday.
Correction: An earlier version of this story and the story’s headline overstated the percentage of US adults who will be vaccinated by the end of the weekend. The White House clarified that the US will be approaching having nearly half of all adults with their first shot of the coronavirus vaccine by this weekend.
CNN’s Deidre McPhillips, Lauren Mascarenhas, Betsy Klein, Ashley Ahn, Kaitlan Collins, Jennifer Henderson, Michael Nedelman, Cheri Mossburg, Ryan Prior and Lauren del Valle contributed to this report.