The number of cases of COVID-19 has tripled in the past three weeks. Hospitalizations and deaths have been on the rise among those who are not vaccinated. Officials are worried about the trendlines and the increasing incidences of what they consider unnecessary illness and death. In the coming weeks, cases will continue to increase.
Officials say that the national emergency has passed, but the outbreak is still a localized problem in areas where there are not enough people to take action.
Biden stated Friday that "Look, we only have one pandemic," echoing earlier comments by Dr. Rochelle Walsky, director at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Large pockets of infection are driving the rising number of cases among the 90 million eligible Americans still to receive shots. Only four states had low vaccination rates, accounting for 40% of all new cases last week. Nearly half of those were from Florida.
The White House is not keen on a return of broad mandates for masks and other measures as 161 million Americans have been fully vaccinated.
Walensky said that Walensky believed that masking would be beneficial for communities in low-vaccination regions with rising numbers of cases.
Some communities are taking action. Los Angeles County reintroduced Thursday's requirement that masks must be worn indoors regardless of vaccination status. Health officials in Las Vegas recommended that patrons and workers in the tourist hotspot use face covers while inside.
The three most effective vaccines are now available for use in the United States. The Biden administration believes that the best way to stop the spread of the virus is to not try to slow it down with mass masking -- which the U.S. did not do very well at last year -- but rather to keep promoting the importance and effectiveness of vaccinations.
It is not an easy task. Despite months of creative efforts by federal and state officials, as well as the private sector to spread information about vaccine safety to all Americans, many Americans are still resistant to getting shots.
Vivek Murthy, the surgeon general, said that although government plays an important role, it must be a "all of the above" strategy that includes all stakeholders, including employers and individuals.
The administration has been focusing on younger Americans in recent days. The White House invited Olivia Rodrigo, a pop singer, to a one-day visit Wednesday with Biden. This was followed by Dr. Anthony Fauci, a top infectious disease expert. It was extensively documented on social media. The virus is less likely to cause adverse effects in younger people, and they are also more likely to get vaccinated.
Another huge group has proved to be a more difficult challenge: the Republicans. Since long, the White House has acknowledged that the GOP would not be convinced to join the White House because of the disinformation and partisan divisions surrounding vaccines. In recent days, however, the administration has intensified criticism of social media companies and public officials for spreading misinformation about vaccines among the GOP.
Biden stated Friday that social media companies are "killing people". This came a day after Murthy warned that false information on vaccines was spreading via platforms like Facebook.
However, attempts to get comments from the major platforms did not succeed immediately.
This new government expression of frustration is accompanied by near disbelief at the fact that tens to millions of Americans refuse to be vaccinated. It will only prolong the pandemic and cause more deaths. Health officials also stress that almost all serious cases can now be prevented.
According to the CDC, more than 99% of COVID-19-related deaths and 97% percent of hospitalizations were caused by people who have not had their vaccines.
Jeff Zients, White House COVID-19 coordinator, stated Friday that the pandemic "primarily threatens unvaccinated persons".
Biden's administration anticipates that cases will rise in the coming weeks due to spreading in low-vaccination communities. Zients said that there are signs that these increased cases are driving more people to seek vaccination. Zients reported that states with high case rates are reporting higher vaccination rates than the national average.