There was no celebration at the White House. The announcement was made on Twitter by Cyrus Shahpar, the COVID-19 data director for the Biden administration. “Let’s continue working to get more eligible vaccinated!” Shahpar wrote.
The White House had hoped to announce the 70% vaccination bench mark four weeks ago. Biden initially used Independence Day to declare a victory of sorts over the pandemic and some kind of return to normal life.
But that goal evaporated in recent weeks as the delta variant spread rapidly, putting pressure on hospitals in regions with low vaccination rates, including many politically conservative areas in the south. Southern Missouri and northern Arkansas, for instance, have been hard hit, swamping hospitals.
In recent weeks, there has been an uptick in the vaccination rate in some states where cases have crested. Arkansas, Missouri, Louisiana and Florida have seen steady increases.
The delta variant is much more contagious than other forms of the virus and may cause more severe disease, according to an internal presentation circulated recently within the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Experts say infections in vaccinated people are still relatively uncommon, and even in those cases, the vaccines authorized in the United States appear to provide protection against severe illness and death.
Last week, federal health authorities issued new guidelines urging fully vaccinated people to wear masks indoors because breakthrough cases of the delta variant might be able to transmit the virus onward.
After missing the self-imposed July 4 deadline, Biden initially sought to shift some responsibility to social media platforms such as Facebook, saying they were “killing people” by allowing disinformation about the coronavirus vaccine to spread. He later walked backed those comments.