The top infectious disease expert in the United States has warned that the country will experience more “pain and suffering in the future” as coronavirus infections are surging, especially in parts of the country where large segments of the population remain unvaccinated.
In an interview with ABC’s This Week programme on Sunday, Dr Anthony Fauci said “an outbreak of the unvaccinated” has spurred a dramatic increase in the seven-day average of new COVID-19 infections in the US.
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“Things are going to get worse if you look at the acceleration of the number of cases, the seven-day average has gone up substantially,” said Fauci, explaining that some 100 million people who are eligible for COVID-19 jabs have not been inoculated.
“We’re looking not I believe to lockdown, but we’re looking to some pain and suffering in the future because we’re seeing the cases go up,” he said, “which is the reason why we keep saying over and over again, the solution to this is get vaccinated and this would not be happening.”
NEW: White House chief medical adviser Dr. Anthony Fauci tells @jonkarl, "things are going to get worse," as COVID-19 cases surge with delta variant.
— This Week (@ThisWeekABC) August 1, 2021
COVID-19 vaccines have been available across the US for months and 60.4 percent of adults are considered fully inoculated, according to data from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
However, many people have not been vaccinated for a variety of reasons, including ideological and political views – and health officials for weeks have been desperately calling on people to get their jabs as the highly contagious Delta variant is spreading.
According to data from Johns Hopkins University, the seven-day rolling average for daily new cases in the US rose from 30,887 on July 16 to 77,827 on July 30.
The seven-day rolling average for the country’s daily new deaths rose over the same period from 253 on July 16 to 358 on July 30, though death reports generally lag weeks after infections and even longer after hospitalisations.
Amid the increase in infections, last week the CDC recommended that fully vaccinated Americans wear masks in indoor public spaces in COVID-19 hotspots. The agency said in very rare cases, vaccinated individuals can contract the virus and pass it on to others.
“With the Delta variant, vaccinating more Americans now is more urgent than ever,” CDC Director Rochelle Walensky told reporters during a news briefing on July 27.
Several US states are seeing a surge in infections, including Florida, which has emerged as the country’s new coronavirus epicentre and reported its highest single-day total of new COVID-19 cases with 21,683 new infections on Saturday.
Florida now accounts for about one-fifth of all new cases in the country.
Republican Governor Ron DeSantis has resisted mask mandates and vaccine requirements, and along with the state legislature has limited local officials’ ability to impose restrictions meant to stop the spread of COVID-19.
DeSantis on Friday barred school districts from requiring students to wear masks when classes resume next month – something the CDC recommended last week.
But the number of Americans getting vaccinated has started to rise again after declining for weeks.
“The silver lining of this is that people are waking up to this and this may be a tipping point for those who have been hesitant,” National Institutes of Health Director Francis Collins told CNN’s State of the Union programme on Sunday.
Collins said vaccinations are up 56 percent in the last two weeks. “That’s what desperately needs to happen if we’re going to get this Delta variant put back in its place, because right now it’s having a pretty big party in the middle of the country,” she said.