The United States’ director of public health said Sunday that he is concerned about what lies ahead, as COVID-19 cases are on the rise in every state, millions of people remain unvaccinated, and a highly contagious variant of the coronavirus spreads. quickly.

Noting that nearly all COVID-19 deaths are currently occurring among the tens of millions of people who have not been inoculated, despite the wide availability of vaccines, Dr. Vivek Murthy painted a disturbing picture of what could bring the future.

“I am concerned about what is to come because we are seeing an increase in cases among unvaccinated people in particular. And although, if you are vaccinated, you are very well protected against hospitalization and death, unfortunately that is not the case if you are not vaccinated, “Murthy told CNN’s” State of the Union “program.

COVID-19 cases in the United States increased last week by 17,000 nationwide in a 14-day period for the first time since late fall, and historically a spike in deaths followed a spike in illnesses. Much of the problem is being driven by the delta variant, which was first detected in India, and has since affected Britain and other countries, Murthy said.

Although the numbers of cases and hospitalizations in the United States remain well below the levels recorded at the worst point of the pandemic at the beginning of the year, Murthy pointed out that the deterioration of the situation shows the need to convince people to get vaccinated. .

“It is the fastest and most effective way we have to get out of this pandemic,” he commented.

About 186 million Americans have received at least one dose of the vaccine, but another 90 million who can do so have not yet been inoculated. Authorities are trying to overcome rejection among some to get vaccinated, especially conservative white people living in rural areas, but how to do this is unclear. So in the meantime, in some places public health measures that had been neglected have been re-implemented.

In Las Vegas, some resorts and casinos again required their employees to wear masks in response to a recommendation issued by health authorities amid a spike in COVID-19 in Nevada, which ranks fifth among the nation’s states. with the highest number of new cases per capita in the last two weeks.

On Saturday night, Los Angeles County reestablished regulations requiring everyone to wear masks inside public buildings. In the San Francisco Bay area, which has one of the highest vaccination rates in California, health authorities have recommended that everyone wear masks inside buildings again, regardless of whether they are vaccinated or not.

But in Alabama, a conservative state where COVID-19 hospitalizations have more than doubled in a month and only about a third of the population is fully vaccinated, authorities have refused to reinstate restrictive health standards in the entire state and to use incentives such as lotteries to promote inoculations.

“I think the best we can do is simply encourage everyone to use their common sense and practice personal responsibility and keep themselves and their families safe,” Governor Kay Ivey told reporters last week.