The Biden administration will send "surge response" teams to prevent the delta variant of the coronavirus from spreading further in COVID-19 hot spots, officials announced Thursday.
Surge response teams will be staffed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, HHS and the Federal Emergency Management Agency, and include virtual and in-person support to provide necessary vaccination, testing or therapeutic resources.
"We're intensifying our efforts to help states prevent, detect, and respond to hotspots among the unvaccinated by mobilizing COVID-19 surge response teams to be at the ready to deploy federal resources and, where needed, federal personnel," said White House coronavirus coordinator Jeff Zients in a press briefing on Thursday.
The delta variant, which was first identified in India, now comprises more than 25% of coronavirus cases in the U.S., according to the CDC, and threatens to overwhelm hospitals in areas where vaccination rates are low.
In states like Arkansas, Missouri, Colorado and Utah, nearly 50% of coronavirus cases are a delta variant.
One response team has already been sent to Mesa County, Colorado, which recently experienced an outbreak of delta variant cases, and the CDC plans to send another team to Missouri to assist with investigating surges there.
Zients said there are around 1,000 counties nationwide, primarily in the Southeast and Midwest, where less than 30% of residents have been vaccinated, leading to increased cases and hospitalizations.
Currently, 57% of U.S. adults are fully vaccinated, and 66% have received at least one shot.
Of those that have died from COVID-19 in the past six months, about 99.5% were unvaccinated, said CDC director Rochelle Walensky during the press briefing.
Biden administration officials said the focus for the foreseeable future will be boosting immunizations through pop-up vaccination sites and mobile vaccination clinics to strengthen communities against the delta variant's rapid spread.