As the U.S. sees upwards of 160,000 new COVID-19 cases per day, the nation’s top infectious disease expert says the country is far from in control of the pandemic.
‘The endgame is to suppress the virus,’ Dr Anthony Fauci told Axios in an interview on Thursday.
But with the current high case level, ‘we’re still in pandemic mode,’ he said.
Pandemic hotspots such as South Carolina, West Virginia, and Idaho exemplify the country’s current lack of control over the coronavirus.
In order to achieve control over the virus – which means recording under 10,000 new cases a day, according to Fauci – the U.S. needs to vaccinate more people.
President Joe Biden’s administration is pushing for this with a new Covid plan, which was announced on Thursday.
Dr Anthony Fauci warns that the pandemic may not be over for a long time, as case counts are about 16 times too high. Pictured: Fauci participates in a network interview at the White House in Washington, D.C., August 2021
At over 150,000 new cases a day, the country is far from controlling the pandemic
Earlier in summer 2021 – as millions of Americans got vaccinated each day and cases dropped to their lowest levels yet – many hoped that the pandemic could finally end in the U.S.
But as the Delta variant now tears through the country and sends thousands of patients to hospitals, it’s clear that the pandemic’s end is, in fact, a long way out.
Fauci made that clear in an interview with Axios on Thursday.
‘The endgame is to suppress the virus. Right now, we’re still in pandemic mode, because we have 160,000 new infections a day,’ he said.
According to data from Johns Hopkins, the country is currently seeing between 150,000 and 160,000 new cases per day – though the Labor Day weekend may have delayed some recent cases from being reported.
Fauci called these numbers ‘not even modestly good control,’ explaining that the coronavirus is still ‘a public health threat.’
‘In a country of our size, you can’t be hanging around and having 100,000 infections a day,’ Fauci said.
‘You’ve got to get well below 10,000 before you start feeling comfortable.’
In other words, the country’s Covid case numbers are currently about 16 times too high.
The U.S. briefly saw daily case numbers between 10,000 and 15,000 in late June, but numbers shot up through July and August as the highly contagious Delta variant spread through the country.
Now, Delta is causing over 99 percent of new Covid cases in the nation.
While the virus primarily spreads among unvaccinated people, vaccinated people may still be able to contract the virus and spread it to others.
South Carolina is seeing record Covid patients in hospitals – 2,400 as of September 9
West Virginia is approaching its winter hospitalization record of more than 800 as Delta spreads ‘explosively’
The vaccines continue to be incredibly effective in protecting against severe disease and death, though – with 99 percent of Covid hospitalizations and deaths in 2021 occurring among the unvaccinated.
As a result, states and counties with lower vaccination rates have been hardest hit in the new surge.
New Delta hotspots have taken the stage from Missouri, Arkansas, Florida, and other states that made headlines last month.
For example, South Carolina now has the highest cases per capita – the state saw 725 new cases for every 100,000 residents in the week ending September 7, according to federal data.
The state is seeing its highest hospitalization numbers yet: 2,400 Covid patients are currently filling South Carolina hospitals.
About 44 percent of state residents are fully vaccinated.
West Virginia – with under 40 percent of residents fully vaccinated – is in a similar position.
The state currently has about 740 Covid patients in hospitals, approaching its winter record of 834.
‘The Delta variant has entered that explosive growth phase,’ Dr Clay Marsh, West Virginia’s coronavirus response adviser, told West Virginia Metro News on Wednesday – warning that vaccinations alone could not stop the surge.
Idaho instituted ‘crisis standards of care’ this week as hospitals in the north part of the state have become overwhelmed with Covid patients
Idaho isn’t seeing case counts as high as those in other states, but it is facing record hospitalizations – with over 500 Covid patients now in hospitals.
On Tuesday, the state’s public health agency instituted ‘crisis standards of care’ for the first time in state history.
These crisis standards allow certain hospitals to ration healthcare, preserving the state’s now very limited staff and supplies.
Like West Virginia, Idaho has fully vaccinated under 40 percent of its population.
The primary way out of this current surge is more vaccinations, Fauci told Axios.
When enough Americans have been vaccinated to truly drive down case numbers, he said, ‘you’ll still get some people getting infected, but you’re not going to have it as a public health threat.’
The Biden administration’s new ‘Path out of the Pandemic’ plan aims to drive up vaccination numbers with new vaccination requirements – including for federal workers, contractors that work for the federal government, and large businesses.
This plan also includes easier access to testing and healthcare improvements for Covid patients in hospitals.