The coronavirus pandemic continues to wane in many parts of the U.S., but the spread of the highly-contagious Delta variant among the unvaccinated could pose a new public health threat, warned President Joe Biden and the head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Friday.
During a coronavirus update with the press, Biden described the Delta variant as being “more easily transmissible, potentially deadlier and particularly dangerous for young people.” While Biden took a moment to acknowledge the “bright summer” that lies ahead for those who are vaccinated, he said there’s cause for concern for people living in “lower vaccination rate states.”
“People getting seriously ill and being hospitalized due to COVID-19 are those who have not been fully vaccinated,” Biden said. “The new variant will leave unvaccinated people even more vulnerable than they were a month ago.”
CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky shared Biden’s concern during an appearance on Good Morning America on Friday. Walensky said the higher transmissibility of the Delta variant will likely help make it the dominant strain of COVID-19 in the U.S in the near future.
Walensky and Biden both stressed the efficacy of vaccinations in safeguarding against the rising variant, a strain which the CDC and the World Health Organization have classified as a “variant of concern.” Walensky said it was important for Americans to get their second dose of the vaccine to be protected against the Delta variant.
Also in the news:
►After being shuttered for nearly eight months, Disneyland Paris reopened to the public on Thursday, becoming the last of the Disney theme parks to resume operation.
►The border between Canada and the U.S. will remain closed to all nonessential travel until at least July 21, Canadian officials said Friday, as the country continues efforts to vaccinate more of its population against COVID-19.
►A year after the coronavirus pandemic prompted people to leave crowded metro areas, renters seem to be gravitating back to cities as vaccination rates go up and jobs continue to come back. At the same time, apartment rents are climbing up from their pandemic discount rates.
►A dangerous surge in COVID-19 cases in Afghanistan has gripped the U.S. embassy in Kabul, forcing an immediate lockdown and the creation of temporary, on-site COVID-19 wards to care for oxygen-dependent patients, according to an internal memo.
►The U.S. Open tennis tournament will allow 100% spectator capacity throughout its entire two weeks in 2021. This comes a year after spectators were banned from the Grand Slam event in New York because of the coronavirus pandemic.
►The U.K. recorded more than 10,000 daily coronavirus infections for the first time in nearly four months, likely the result of the spread of the more contagious delta variant. The variant accounts for around 95% of all new cases in the U.K..
? Today's numbers: The U.S. has more than 33.5 million confirmed coronavirus cases and more than 601,500 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University data. The global totals: More than 177.8 million cases and more than 3.8 million deaths. More than 148 million Americans have been fully vaccinated – 44.7% of the population, according to the CDC.
? What we're reading: Companies like Moderna and Pfizer's partner BioNTech are exploring the use of messenger RNA, an ingredient which has been used in COVID-19 vaccines, in the creation of trial cancer vaccines. The hope is that these vaccines will help bolster the immune systems of cancer patients during treatment. Read more.
A federal judge in Florida found the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's COVID-19 restrictions on cruises could have exceeded the agency's powers, throwing the future of vacationing on the seas post-pandemic into uncertainty.
The Friday ruling, the result of a lawsuit by the state of Florida, granted a preliminary injunction that might turn CDC mandates on cruising to and from the state into optional guidelines when they go into effect next month, though the agency has time to propose a narrower injunction.
"This order finds that Florida is highly likely to prevail on the merits of the claim that CDC’s conditional sailing order and the implementing orders exceed the authority delegated to CDC," reads the conclusion of the 124-page ruling issued by Judge Steven Merryday on Friday.
The lawsuit, touted by Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis who has emerged as a key critic of President Joe Biden and his COVID policies, challenged CDC guidelines on the cruise industry and alleged the agency exceeded its authority.
"We are securing this victory for Florida families, for the cruise industry, and for every state that wants to preserve its rights in the face of unprecedented federal overreach," DeSantis said after the ruling.
The state has instituted a ban on vaccine passports, preventing businesses, including cruise lines, from requiring patrons to show proof of vaccination prior to entry. That decree conflicts with the CDC's cruise regulations, which require ships to carry a certain threshold of vaccinated passengers to cruise in U.S. waters without conducting test cruises first.
The lawsuit is one example of the ways Republican-led states have lashed out against continued COVID-19 mandates, though more and more states have either axed restrictions or announced plans to do so in the coming weeks due to lower coronavirus infection rates and continued vaccination efforts.
Michigan, New Mexico set to lift COVID restrictions
Michigan and New Mexico are set to join nearly every other state in lifting most COVID-19 restrictions as infection rates fall and more Americans are vaccinated.
Michigan will lift all indoor capacity restrictions and mask requirements next week, 10 days sooner than planned amid vaccinations and plummeting COVID-19 infections, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer announced Thursday.
“Today is a day that we have all been looking forward to, as we can safely get back to normal day-to-day activities and put this pandemic behind us,” Whitmer said in a news release.
New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham similarly announced the state will also drop its restrictions and reopen fully on July 1. While the state has largely been open, restrictions are set to be dropped that will allow businesses and events to operate at full capacity once again, regardless of whether they are inside or outdoors.
“I know some will say this day is late in coming. I sure wish we’d gotten here sooner,” Lujan Grisham said announcing the reopening. "I believe, on the whole, New Mexicans made the right public health decisions in their day-to-day lives, following the science and helping us get to this point quickly and, more importantly, as safely as we possibly could."
EU recommends allowing American tourists back to Europe
The European Union on Friday added the U.S. to a list of countries for which they say travel restrictions should gradually be lifted. The list applies to all American tourists, vaccinated or not, for nonessential travel.
However the recommendation is not legally binding.
Have COVID vaccine, will travel:These are the countries open to fully vaccinated Americans
"It’s up to every country to decide how and when to open the borders," said French Embassy spokesperson Pascal Confavreux. "The European Union is the one giving the framework, but the decision comes from the states."
Each of the E.U.'s 27 member states has the power to set its own guidelines and timelines for travelers, including whether or not to require vaccinations or COVID-19 tests for entry.
Americans hoping to head to Europe should check the current restrictions for each country on their itinerary.
Contributing: The Associated Press