By Dr. Mallika Marshall

BOSTON (CBS) – More than a year-and-a-half after the coronavirus pandemic began, many of us are back to wearing masks, back to increasing hospitalizations and rising cases across the country.

The U.S. was averaging about 10,500 new COVID-19 cases a day back on July 5. A little more than three weeks later, nearly 67,000 people are testing positive every day.

So how did we get here?

It is frustrating. The U.S. Surgeon General and many public health experts say while putting masks back on indoors can help limit the spread of the virus, what’s important is getting many more Americans vaccinated.

(WBZ-TV graphic)

But much of the country remains unvaccinated, with up to 30% of Americans saying they don’t want to get the shots, which is allowing this highly contagious Delta variant to spread quickly and freely, and that could lead to even worse variants.

And while there are breakthrough cases among those who are vaccinated, those cases are still rare, and the driving force for transmission is unvaccinated people spreading the virus to other unvaccinated people. Imagine the virus just literally searching for someone it can infect.

Breakthrough case data through July 24, 2021 in Massachusetts. (WBZ-TV graphic)

As an urgent care doctor, it’s heartbreaking and frankly demoralizing to see patients coming in with COVID symptoms again and testing positive again, and of course, it’s often young adults and children now.

And some people will say, “See? I told you the vaccines weren’t working.”

But, yes, they’re working. They’re keeping people from getting sick, from ending up on a ventilator in the ICU, and dying from what is now truly a preventable disease.

Now, I’m not worried like I was before about getting sick and dying and leaving my three kids behind.

But, I am still really worried about the people who aren’t protected. Those are the people with immune systems that are too weak to respond to the vaccine, kids who are too young to get the vaccine, and all those people with underlying conditions who just won’t get the vaccines.

We’re putting our masks back on again and limiting our contact again with other people to protect those who are still at risk.

It didn’t have to be this way. It doesn’t have to be this way. The way out of this mess is to get everyone vaccinated. Full stop.

So, if you’re not vaccinated, please do so as soon as possible. If you’re scared or worried of you have questions, it’s ok. Call your doctor so you can get the information directly from a source you trust. Please.

Dr. Mallika Marshall