WASHINGTON – The Delta variant of the coronavirus is being blamed for a surge in new cases and hospitalizations in numbers similar to what we saw last summer.
Internal documents at the CDC, obtained by the Washington Post, reveal the variant is "spread as easily as chickenpox" and is likely more deadly.
This comes hours after a somber White House address by President Biden where he issued strict new rules.
"Every federal government employee, every federal government employee will be asked to attest to their vaccination status. Anyone who does not attest or is not vaccinated will be required to mask, no matter where they work. Test one or two times a week to see if they've they've acquired COVID," he said.
The order impacts more than four million federal workers. Pushback was immediate from the US Postal Workers Union, the Association of Federal Law Enforcement Officers, and several teacher's unions.
Still, more Americans are protecting themselves against COVID. Last week 2.8 million people got shots – a number up 18 percent over the previous week.
But frustration over mixed messaging from the White House is growing after the CDC issued new guidance this week suggesting even vaccinated people wear masks indoors.
"I don't think mask mandates work. We had the president of the United States telling all Americans, begging them, get your vaccine, take your mask off. Now that guidance is different. What does that tell people? Mixed messages from the government," said Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp (R).
On Capitol Hill, it's a tale of two houses. In the Senate, masks are recommended. In the House, they're required.
"We've got to go around and see – OK, we can't come to the floor, I can't execute my constitutional duty unless I wear a mask. Which is it? Vaccines or masks?" asked a passionate Rep. Chip Roy (R-TX) on the House floor.
Seven states have already banned mask mandates. At the same time, vaccine requirements are appearing in the private sector. Google, Facebook, and Netflix now require most employees get vaccinated before returning to work.
Entry into the Lallapalooza music festival kicking off this week in Chicago requires proof of a vaccine or negative test.
And while vaccinated Americans are still testing positive for COVID their cases tend to be mild.
Well-known Christian author and Pastor Max Lucado recently caught the virus, despite being vaccinated himself and wrote, "Though miserable, the misery would have been worse with no vaccination."
But as cases rise, it's clear the debate over how to treat the latest surge is far from over.