The race is on, said America’s top infections disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci, with the U.S.’s vaccination efforts pitted against a potential new COVID-19 surge, as new daily cases remain plateaued at a high level.
Speaking Thursday morning on NBC’s “Today” show, Dr. Fauci expressed concern that some states are prematurely pulling back public health measures, at a time that a big surge in new cases in Europe may be acting as a preview for the U.S. Although daily new cases have declined sharply from recent peaks, they’ve plateaued over the last few weeks around 50,000 and 55,000 — “That is much too high to be declaring victory,” Fauci said.
Coincidentally, the New York Times tracker showed that daily new cases rose above that range on Wednesday, to at least 58,856 from 54,440 on Tuesday. The daily average over the past week also peeked above that range, to 55,001 cases per day, up from 54,954 as of Tuesday, although the daily average is down 15% from the average two weeks earlier. See past Coronavirus Update columns.
Fauci said in past surges, Europe was generally three or four weeks ahead of the U.S. So what he’s worried about is in Europe’s current surge, cases plateaued at a relatively high level, countries started pulling back on public health measures and then new cases started inching up then just took off.
“And we’re seeing that in a few of the [U.S.] states,” Fauci said. “Not all of the states. But a few of are starting to have increases, which is very disturbing.”
He said he didn’t want to sound like a “worry wort,” he was just looking at the situation “very coldly” and in a “very scientific way.”
According to data aggregated by Johns Hopkins University, 19 states have seen the trend of new daily cases increase this week, up from 9 states the week before.
But Fauci stressed there was also good news, in that two to three million Americans are getting vaccinated every day. In addition, the vaccines “work well” against the faster-spreading U.K. variant.
“And that is the reason why I keep saying that it is a race between the vaccine and the virus,” Fauci said. “Let’s get as many people vaccinated as quick as we possibly can.”
There are three vaccines currently authorized for use in the U.S., two-dose vaccines from Moderna Inc.
and from Pfizer Inc.
and BioNTech SE
and Johnson & Johnson’s
The latest data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that 147,590,615 vaccine doses have been delivered and a total of 113,037,627 arms have been jabbed.
That includes 73,669,956 people who have received at least one dose, or 22.2% of the population, while 39,989,196 people, or 12.0% of the population, who have been fully vaccinated.
That puts the U.S. on track to surpass President Joe Biden’s goal to deliver 100 million shots within his first 100 days, as it’s been 57 days since his inauguration. President Biden is scheduled to give an update on the U.S. vaccine rollout Thursday afternoon.
The U.S. leads the world in people fully vaccinated, according to JHU data, nearly seven times second place India, but is 11th in percent of population fully vaccinated, behind leaders Gibraltar at 58.1% and Israel at 46.6%.
Meanwhile, the U.S. continues to lead the world in total cases at 29,611,598 on Thursday, according to JHU data, or 24.4% of the global total of 121,400,246. The U.S. also leads in total deaths at 538,182, or 20.1% of the worldwide total of 2,683,381.
Latest tallies outside the U.S.
Brazil has the second highest death toll at 284,775 and is second by cases at 11,693,838. India is third worldwide in cases with 11,474,605 and is fourth in deaths at 169,216.
Mexico has the third highest death toll at 195,908 but is 13th in cases at 2,175,462.
The U.K. is fifth globally with 4,287,996 cases, behind Russia at 4,378,646, while the U.K. has the world’s fifth highest, and Europe’s highest, death toll of 126,068. Italy is six in deaths at 103,432 and seventh in cases at 3,381,810, while Russia is seventh in deaths at 92,266.
China, were the virus was first discovered last year, has had 101,470 confirmed cases and 4,839 deaths, according to its official numbers.