The delta variant of the coronavirus may double in the coming weeks to 200,000 cases a day in the United States, Chief White House medical adviser Dr. Anthony Fauci told McClatchy in an interview on Wednesday.
With the variant rising in a “very steep fashion” nationwide, the country could be “in trouble” entering the fall unless a large portion of unvaccinated Americans decide to get the shots, he said.
“What we’re seeing, because of this increase in transmissibility, and because we have about 93 million people in this country who are eligible to get vaccinated who don’t get vaccinated - that you have a significant pool of vulnerable people,” Fauci said.
The chief White House medical adviser stressed that “just a couple of months ago, we were having about 10,000 cases a day [and now] I think you’re likely going to wind up somewhere between 100,000 and 200,000 cases.”
He said he is concerned that the virus is being given “ample” opportunity to morph even further into a deadlier strain that could diminish the effectiveness of vaccines, explaining that “if we don’t crush the outbreak to the point of getting the overwhelming proportion of the population vaccinated, then what will happen is the virus will continue to smolder through the fall into the winter, giving it ample chance to get a variant."
He added that "we’re very lucky that the vaccines that we have now do very well against the variants - particularly against severe illness… [because] there could be a variant that’s lingering out there that can push aside delta.”
He sounded the alarm that “if another one comes along that has an equally high capability of transmitting but also is much more severe, then we could really be in trouble. People who are not getting vaccinated mistakenly think it’s only about them. But it isn’t. It’s about everybody else, also.”
Fauci is hopeful that full approval of Pfizer and Moderna’s two-dose vaccines by the Food and Drug Administration, which are expected in a matter of weeks, will cause a significant increase in vaccination rates among the public.
But he stressed that “even if we vaccinated everyone today, we’re not going to see an effect until the middle to end of September,” because vaccines take time to be effective and work.
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