Fauci warns of ‘localized surges’ in areas with low vaccination rates
Anthony Fauci on Tuesday warned of the possibility of “localized surges” of COVID-19 in areas of the U.S. with low vaccination rates if a certain segment of the population declines to get the shots.
Fauci, chief medical adviser to President Biden, said at a White House press briefing that he does not expect any surges that were as bad as the pre-vaccine days in the United States, and he says the country is likely past the threat of returning to having 1,000 or more deaths per day.
But there is wide variation in vaccination rates between parts of the U.S., leaving some areas more vulnerable to localized outbreaks, he said. Sixteen states and Washington, D.C., have vaccinated 70 percent or more adults with at least one shot, while four states (Mississippi, Wyoming, Louisiana and Alabama) are at less than 50 percent, according to New York Times data.
“There is a danger, a real danger, that if there is a persistence of a recalcitrance to getting vaccinated that you could see localized surges,” Fauci said.
However, he emphasized: “All of that is totally and completely avoidable by getting vaccinated.”
Pockets of the country, especially in the South, have proven more resistant to vaccination, though. The White House acknowledged Tuesday it would fall short of the goal of 70 percent of adults with at least one shot by July 4, though it has met that goal for people 30 and over.
Experts have pointed to the return of colder weather in the fall as a risk factor for localized surges.
A more transmissible variant of the virus, called the delta variant, poses an increased danger for people who remain unvaccinated. Importantly, the vaccines remain highly effective against the variant.
Fauci said the delta variant is now 20.6 percent of U.S. cases, and is doubling about every two weeks.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Rochelle Walensky warned that if the virus is allowed to continue to spread, it provides opportunities for more dangerous variants to develop.
“This variant represents a set of mutations that could lead to future mutations that evade our vaccines,” she said of the delta variant. “And that’s why it’s more important than ever to get vaccinated now, to stop the chain of infection, the chain of mutations that could lead to a more dangerous variant.”