The seven-day average of new COVID-19 cases in the U.S. is up 3% from the previous seven-day period, CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said Friday, a sign that new infections could be starting to slow following a recent surge fueled by the highly contagious delta variant.
The new numbers, announced during a White House COVID-19 Response Team briefing, come just days after the U.S. reported a 12% uptick in cases from the previous seven-day period.
A number of employers in the public and private sector are also beginning to implement vaccination requirements — a key priority for the Biden administration, which hosted a roundtable designed to encourage vaccine mandates earlier this month.
"This week, the president reiterated his call for public- and private-sector leaders to follow his lead on vaccination mandates and to continue the momentum for stronger vaccination requirements across the country," White House task force coordinator Jeff Zients said. "Just since Monday, more employers are stepping up -- including Disney, Deloitte and the city of Chicago.
"The Business Roundtable, which represents more than 200 businesses that employ a total of 20 million workers, endorsed COVID-19 vaccination requirements, and they are encouraging state and local policymakers to ... support, not impede, companies' ability to adopt these requirements," he added.
Meanwhile, Zients said, 50% of U.S. adolescents ages 12 to 17 now have received at least one shot of the COVID-19 vaccine — an encouraging statistic as students across the country return to classrooms to resume in-person learning.
Many GOP-led states, including Florida and Texas, have sought to ban mask mandates in schools, even as the number of new cases, hospitalizations and deaths continues to surge.
Florida is now reporting a record-high average of 227 COVID-19 deaths a day, according to data compiled by The Washington Post, representing a staggering 613% increase from the previous seven-day period.
"We know how to protect our kids in school. We have the tools," Walensky said Friday. "This week, the CDC released toolkits to help schools plan for and implement screening, testing, and for parents to understand what they should be asking of — indeed expecting of — their school systems to keep their children safe.
"Unfortunately," she added, "many schools have opted not to implement these recommendations.
"We know what works. Now, let us unify together to follow these steps to ensure fundamentally that our children and our teachers are safe."
A Florida judge ruled Friday in favor of a group of parents who challenged Gov. Ron DeSantis’ ban against school mask mandates. The judge ruled that the governor’s ban “exceeds authority.”