President Joe Biden’s administration is sending COVID-19 “response teams” to locations across the United States amid growing concerns surrounding the new highly transmittable Delta variant of the virus, according to a White House official, CNN reported.
Comprised of officials from the U.S. Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the teams will focus on communities with low vaccination rates and a prominent presence of the latest strain.
A White House official said the administration has sent out similar teams before, but none that focused specifically on the Delta variant. The teams, led by the White House coronavirus team, will be tasked with conducting a sharp increase in testing, providing therapeutics, and deploying federal workers to ramp up vaccination distribution.
The CDC estimates that 26 percent of current COVID-19 infections are the result of the Delta variant, with cases appearing in all 50 states.
The Biden administration continues to encourage Americans to get vaccinated despite the administration acknowledging it will fall short of its vaccination goal heading into the Fourth of July holiday weekend.
A Kaiser Family Foundation report provided a possible explanation for why the administration won’t reach their target: the majority of adults who plan on getting the vaccine already have.
On Thursday, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki reiterated the administration’s calls for Americans to vaccinate.
“We want to be as clear as possible,” Psaki said. “So, if you have been vaccinated, the message we’re conveying is: You’re safe …If you are not yet vaccinated, you are not safe and protected. That’s why you should go get vaccinated. It’s not more complicated than that in some regards.”
As of Thursday morning, the CDC reported that over 154 million Americans are fully vaccinated, including more than 57 percent of those over the age of 18.
Public health official Dr. Anthony Fauci called the newest COVID-19 variant the “greatest threat” to the United States’ efforts to eradicate the virus during a White House press conference on the pandemic last week.
CNBC reported that studies show delta is about 60 percent more transmissible than the alpha variant, which was already more contagious than the original strain that originated in Wuhan, China.
“As worrisome as this delta strain is with regard to its hyper transmissibility, our vaccines work,” CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said on “Good Morning America,” adding that vaccinated individuals will “be protected against this delta variant.”
Dr. Mike Ryan, executive director of the World Health Organization’s health emergencies program, said the new variant may become “more lethal because it’s more efficient in the way it transmits between humans and it will eventually find those vulnerable individuals who will become severely ill, have to be hospitalized and potentially die.”