COVID-19 deaths and cases in the U.S. have climbed back to levels not seen since last winter, erasing months of progress and potentially bolstering President Joe Biden's argument for his sweeping new vaccination requirements.
The cases — driven by the Delta variant combined with resistance among some Americans to getting the vaccine — are concentrated mostly in the South.
The dire situation in some hospitals is starting to look like January's infection peak with surgeries cancelled in hospitals in Washington state and Utah, severe staff shortages in Kentucky and Alabama and a lack of beds in Tennessee.
While one-time hot spots like Florida and Louisiana are improving, infection rates are soaring in Kentucky, Georgia and Tennessee, fuelled by children now back in school, loose mask restrictions and low vaccination levels.
In the last week, children reportedly accounted for almost 30 per cent of all COVID cases in the US.