COVID-19 cases have almost tripled in the U.S. in the last two weeks as the Delta variant explodes in pockets across the country. The cases are soaring especially in states with low vaccination rates.
On Thursday, Jeff Zients, the White House pandemic response coordinator, said Florida, Texas, and Missouri are driving the numbers, with 40 percent of all the new cases this week.
At the same time, he also praised Florida and Missouri along with Nevada, Arkansas, and Louisiana for improving their vaccination rates. Each state has seen its rate beat the national average for the second week in a row.
In Nevada, authorities say a population that's been historically slow to vaccinate has helped to exacerbate the latest surge.
Dr. Brian Labus, an epidemiologist at the University of Nevada - Las Vegas, told CBN News, "We have the right conditions for people to spread the virus."
Labus said the vaccination rates in combination with the Delta variant and relaxed restrictions around masks have contributed.
It's why state health officials are now encouraging people to wear masks in public indoor spaces.
On Tuesday, the Clark County commissioners voted unanimously to require mask-wearing for casino employees and other workers that interact with the public inside.
Labus says at many casinos, more than 90% of the employees are vaccinated, providing a buffer for tourists.
He notes that the state's COVID case count doesn't include out-of-town visitors.
"We have hundreds of thousands of people who come to town every week and they stay about 3.5 nights and the disease takes a little longer than that to actually develop," he said. "So a lot of the people, if they get infected here, would already be home before they were able to spread the disease to others."
Nevada is focused on improving its vaccination rate as one of the top strategies to fight the latest surge. To that end, the state is trying a variety of tactics, including a lottery with prizes and enlisting extra help from the federal government.
Labus says a big concern is that the uptick in cases will result in more hospitalizations and deaths in the weeks to come.
Meanwhile, Alabama is also seeing a spike in cases and it has one of the lowest vaccination rates. So Gov. Kay Ivey publicly called on residents on Thursday to get the vaccine.
"The new cases of COVID are because of unvaccinated folks," she said. "Almost 100% of the new hospitalizations are with unvaccinated folks. And the deaths are certainly occurring with the unvaccinated folks. These folks are choosing a horrible lifestyle of self-inflicted pain."
"It's time to start blaming the unvaccinated folks, not the vaccinated folks," Ivey said.