Vaccine hesitancy, politicisation of the pandemic and the Delta variant are scuttling America's success in returning to normal after Covid ripped through the country.
The United States hit a six-month high for new Covid cases with over 100,000 infections reported on Wednesday (local time), as the Delta variant ravages areas where people did not get vaccinated.
Vaccination rates vary widely from a high of 76 per cent of Vermont residents receiving a first dose to a low of 40 per cent in Mississippi, with polls showing Republicans are far less likely than Democrats to get vaccinated.
Unvaccinated people represent nearly 97 per cent of severe cases, according to the White House Covid-19 Response Team, leading US President Joe Biden to label the country's ongoing woes as a "pandemic of the unvaccinated".
The US state of Florida has become a flashpoint for the country's bitter coronavirus division with the state hitting a record high in Covid cases and hospitalisations this week.
On Tuesday (local time), Florida hit 11,515 hospitalised Covid patients, breaking last year’s record for the third straight day. Disturbingly, that number is way up from just 1,000 in mid-June, however deaths remain down on last year.
The state has become the country's new virus epicentre but Florida's Republican Governor Ron DeSantis has fiercely opposed measures to contain the spread of the virus.
Mr DeSantis is widely expected to make a tilt at the White House in 2024 in a run that could put him on a collision course with Donald Trump, despite courting the same block of Republican voters.
The Florida politician has resisted mandatory mask mandates and vaccine requirements, and along with the state Legislature, has limited local officials’ ability to impose restrictions meant to stop the spread of Covid-19. Last week he barred school districts from requiring students to wear masks when classes resume.
It has triggered outrage among critics as Florida also leads the country in Covid hospitalisations among children, with 32 paediatric Covid hospitalisations per day between July 24 and 30, the Tampa Bay Times reported, citing data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Florida slammed as Covid cases surge among the young
Harvard-trained epidemiologist and public health expert Eric Feigl-Ding shared a viral video purportedly showing a nine-year-old boy in a Florida ICU after contracting severe pneumonia related to Covid-19.
The video, which could not be verified, showed the boy – who is too young to get vaccinated against Covid-19 – hooked up to a machine helping him to breath.
He described the position of the Florida state government as amounting to "child endangerment".
Despite requests for a rethink from education officials, the Florida governor has come down hard on schools which try to impose mask mandates or other Covid compliance measures.
On Tuesday (local time), Mr Biden urged Republican leaders in Florida and Texas – home to roughly a third of all new US Covid cases – to follow public health guidelines on the pandemic or "get out of the way".
"If you’re not going to help, at least get out of the way of people trying to do the right thing."
Top doctor calls for children to be vaccinated
Speaking with the ABC's 7:30 program on Thursday night, the top infectious disease doctor in the US, Dr Anthony Fauci, said he believes children should be vaccinated against the novel coronavirus.
"I know it's controversial - we feel you really need to get the children vaccinated. They will get infected. They will spread it inadvertently and innocently because most of them would likely not get severely ill," he said.
"So we've got to get the kids vaccinated because this is a very, very transmissible virus."
Dr Fauci, who has led the country's public-facing response to the pandemic, also lamented the situation in Florida and other southern states where politics has hindered health measures.
"About 40 per cent of all the new infections in the US are recovering in two states: Florida and Texas. Twenty per cent plus of all the infections are occurring in Florida," he told the program.
"And that's really because there's that feeling they don't want to be told what to do. They don't trust the vaccine."
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