US finally reaches President Biden's goal of getting at least one Covid-19 shot in the arms of 70% of American adults, a month late and amid a fierce surge by Delta variant that first emerged in India.

People queue at a popup Covid testing site in Times Square, New York City, US, on August 2, 2021.
People queue at a popup Covid testing site in Times Square, New York City, US, on August 2, 2021. (Reuters)

The US has finally reached President Joe Biden’s goal of getting at least one Covid-19 shot in the arms of 70 percent of American adults –– a month late and amid a fierce surge by the delta variant that is swamping hospitals and leading to new mask rules and mandatory vaccinations around the country.

Louisiana ordered nearly everyone, vaccinated or not, to wear masks again in all indoor public settings, including schools and colleges, and other cities and states likewise moved to reinstate precautions to counter a crisis blamed on the fast-spreading variant and stubborn resistance to getting the vaccine.

"As fast as we are opening up units, they're being filled with Covid patients," lamented on Monday Dr Sergio Segarra, chief medical officer of Baptist Hospital Miami, where the Florida chain reported an increase of well over 140 percent in the past two weeks in the number of people now hospitalised with the virus.

"As quickly as we can discharge them they’re coming in and they’re coming in very sick. We started seeing entire families come down."

READ MORE: Doctors study severity of Delta strain amid concerns over transmission

No celebration at White House

Biden had set a goal of reaching the 70 percent threshold by the Fourth of July. 

But that target was set well before the highly contagious Delta variant, that first emerged in India, enabled the virus to come storming back and undermined the assumptions that were used to arrive at that figure.

There was was no celebration at the White House on Monday, nor a setting of a new target, as the administration instead struggles to overcome public resistance.

The 70 percent target marked the low-end of initial government estimates for what would be necessary to achieve herd immunity in the US. 

That has been rendered insufficient by the Delta variant.

The US still has not hit the administration's other goal of fully vaccinating 165 million American adults by July 4. It is about 8.5 million short.

READ MORE: China battles Covid-19 outbreak as WHO warns of Delta-fuelled spread

Cases and deaths rise

New cases per day in the US have increased sixfold over the past month to an average of nearly 80,000, a level not seen since mid-February. 

And deaths per day have climbed over the past two weeks from an average of 259 to 360. Those are still well below the 3,400 deaths and a quarter-million cases per day seen during the worst of the outbreak, in January.

Some places around the country are seeing newly confirmed infections and hospital caseloads reach their highest levels since the pandemic began a year and a half ago. Nearly all deaths and serious illnesses now are in unvaccinated people.

The surge has led states and cities across the US to beat a retreat, just weeks after it looked as if the country was going to see a close-to-normal summer.

READ MORE: Moderna's Covid-19 vaccine shows promise against Delta variant

Source: AP