In an interview with McClatchy D.C., the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases director warned that cases of the super-infectious delta variant could double in the near future.
According to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, delta variant cases –including sub-variants – make up more than 93% of all new cases in the U.S. In the Midwest, that percentage is even higher and the delta variant is especially prevalent in areas with low vaccination rates.
The agency said on Twitter Wednesday that the current seven-day average of daily new cases is 89,463, a 43.3% increase from the previous week and a 678.6% increase from the lowest average in June 2021.
“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,” he said.
“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,” Fauci noted.
Fauci told the outlet that the U.S. would likely “wind up somewhere between 100,000 and 200,000 cases,” as the country battles what he called a “different virus.”
While the Biden administration has painted this outbreak as a “pandemic of the unvaccinated,” Fauci said that even if every person was vaccinated today the U.S. would not “see an effect until the middle to end of September.”
He told McClatchy D.C. that he was hopeful that full approval from the Food and Drug Administration of Pfizer and Moderna’s vaccines would result in a “bump” in vaccination rates.
That said, vaccinated individuals can still carry and pass the virus and studies have shown that vaccinated individuals are still at risk of “long-haul COVID.”
It’s Fauci’s fear that the variant could mutate even further into a deadlier strain as the virus continues to spread.
More than 63% of states, territories and jurisdictions are shown on a CDC map with a “high” level of community transmission.
“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,” he said. “We’re very fortunate that that’s the case. There could be a variant that’s lingering out there that can push aside delta.”
“People who are not getting vaccinated mistakenly think it’s only about them. But it isn’t. It’s about everybody else, also,” he said.
As of Thursday morning, the U.S. had tallied more than 35.3 million cases of the novel coronavirus and at least 614,785 deaths.
This week – a month later than initially targeted – the Biden administration met its goal of 70% of U.S. adults having received at least one vaccine shot.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.