U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy on Sunday called the number of novel coronavirus cases nationwide "deeply concerning," adding that there are more children being hospitalized in the United States with COVID-19 than at any other time during the pandemic as a result of the highly contagious delta variant.
More than 151,000 new COVID-19 cases have been reported in the U.S. each day – up over 1,000% from June, according to information from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Approximately 18% of the new transmissions are those involving children, data show. The surge in cases has been driven by the delta variant, Murthy told Chris Wallace on "Fox News Sunday."
"How high could they go is an open question," Murthy continued. "The vast majority of people who are ending up in the hospital and who are losing their lives to this illness are those who are unvaccinated, which means that the vaccinations are doing their job to keep people out of the hospital and to save lives."
More than 1 million people have been vaccinated each day over the past three days in the United States, which Murthy called "encouraging." He called on those who have not yet done so and said he hopes the number of COVID-19 vaccinations continues to climb.
"That is ultimately how we are going to save lives and overcome the data variant," he continued.
The Food and Drug Administration is expected to fully approve the Pfizer vaccine this week, which might lead to an increase in vaccination rate for those who had been waiting, Murthy said.
He said he believes this "would likely encourage" certain places to institute vaccine mandates.
"There are universities and businesses that have been considering putting in vaccine requirements in order to create a safer workplace or learning environment," he said. "And I think this announcement from the FDA would likely encourage them and make them feel more comfortable."
On Wednesday, U.S. health officials announced plans to dispense COVID-19 booster shots to all Americans to shore up their protection amid the surging delta variant and signs that the vaccines' effectiveness is slipping.
The plan calls for an extra dose eight months after people get their second shot of the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna vaccine. The doses could begin the week of Sept. 20. People who received the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine will also probably need extra shots, health officials said. But they said they are waiting for more data.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.