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U.S. surgeon general: Spike in COVID-19 cases shows importance of vaccinations

United States Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy on

United States Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy on Sunday urged Americans to get vaccinated for COVID-19 and spoke of the need to fight coronavirus misinformation. He is shown Thursday at the White House. Credit: AFP / Saul Loeb via Getty Images

WASHINGTON — U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy on Sunday said he is "worried for what is to come" as the country continues to see an uptick in COVID-19 cases stemming from the highly transmissible Delta variant.

Murthy, making the rounds of the Sunday political talk show circuit, urged Americans to get vaccinated, noting that the overwhelming majority of new cases and deaths are among unvaccinated individuals.

"I am worried about what is to come, because we are seeing increasing cases, among the unvaccinated in particular, and while, if you are vaccinated, you are very well protected against hospitalization and death, unfortunately, that is not true if you are not vaccinated," Murthy told CNN’s "State of the Union."

On Friday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that the seven-day average for new cases had increased by nearly 70% to almost 30,000 per day. Every state is now experiencing an increase in cases after most saw weeks of steady declines.

Murthy said "99.5% of deaths right now from COVID-19 in our country are happening among the unvaccinated," underscoring the need to get Americans "vaccinated as quickly as possible."

"It is our fastest, most effective way out of this pandemic," he said.

Asked about his prognosis for the fall if the country is unable to curb the rising number of cases, Murthy told ABC's "This Week," he is "deeply concerned."

"We've made so much progress over this past year, but what I worry about are those … millions of people in our country who are not vaccinated," Murthy said.

Murthy’s appearances came days after he issued a formal warning against misinformation circulating on social media about the virus and the trio of federally approved COVID-19 vaccines.

In a 22-page advisory, the surgeon general warned: "Health misinformation is a serious threat to public health. It can cause confusion, sow mistrust, harm people's health, and undermine public health efforts. Limiting the spread of health misinformation is a moral and civic imperative that will require a whole-of-society effort."

The White House has taken aim at Facebook in particular, with Murthy telling "Fox News Sunday" the social media giant’s claims that it has been taking down false information from its platform is "not enough."

"We are still, despite some of the actions that they have taken, seeing significant spread of misinformation," Murthy said.

Facebook, in a lengthy statement posted on its website on Saturday, noted that it had developed tools on its website that allow users to share when they have been vaccinated as part of an effort to increase "perceptions that vaccines are safe."

Speaking on "This Week," Murthy said the federal government is pushing "for greater transparency in terms of the data" that social media companies like Facebook have "so we can get a better sense of how much misinformation is flowing on these sites and what strategies are working to address them."

Murthy, when asked if the CDC should change its mask guidance to recommend them even for those who are vaccinated, given the increasing number of cases, said it was "very reasonable" for local jurisdictions to reconsider their own mandates.

"In areas where there are low numbers of vaccinated people or where cases are rising, it's very reasonable for counties to take more mitigation measures, like the mask rules that you see coming out in [Los Angeles], and I anticipate that will happen in other parts of the country, too," Murthy said.

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