The head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases noted that the United States could be “in trouble” if this occurs, as studies have shown that the Delta variant already possesses viral loads that are a thousand times higher than the original strain.
“What we’re seeing, because of this increase in transmissibility, and because we have about ninety-three 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 in an interview with McClatchy, adding that cases across the United States could potentially double in the coming weeks.
“And so, when you look at the curve of acceleration of seven-day averages of cases per day, it is going up in a very steep fashion. … Remember, just a couple of months ago, we were having about ten thousand cases a day. I think you’re likely going to wind up somewhere between a hundred thousand and two hundred thousand cases,” he added.
Despite the incredibly high transmissibility rates of the Delta variant, a more contagious one could be mutating right now.
“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 which, quite frankly, we’re very lucky that the vaccines that we have now do very well against the variants—particularly against severe illness. We’re very fortunate that that’s the case. There could be a variant that’s lingering out there that can push aside Delta,” Fauci said.
“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,” he continued.
Hope in Vaccines
The nation’s top infectious disease expert asserted that he is hopeful that Pfizer and Moderna’s two-dose vaccines will get full approval by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in the coming weeks—and that could potentially boost vaccination rates. But he added that results won’t be seen overnight, as vaccines do take time to work.
“Even if we vaccinated everyone today, we’re not going to see an effect until the middle to end of September,” Fauci said.
The latest estimates by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are indicating that nearly 50 percent of the U.S. population is fully vaccinated, while 58 percent have had at least one vaccine dose.
Ethen Kim Lieser is a Minneapolis-based Science and Tech Editor who has held posts at Google, The Korea Herald, Lincoln Journal Star, AsianWeek, and Arirang TV. Follow or contact him on LinkedIn.