The highly contagious delta variant of the coronavirus is the greatest threat to the United States’ attempt to eradicate COVID-19, White House chief medical adviser Anthony Fauci said Tuesday.
During a White House coronavirus briefing, the head of the National Institutes of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) said the variant now makes up more than 20 percent of all new cases in the U.S., a significant increase from nearly 10 percent two weeks ago.
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The delta variant, first identified in India, recently became the dominant strain in the United Kingdom, surpassing the alpha variant first discovered in the U.K. in fall. The strain makes up more than 90 percent of new cases and delayed the U.K.’s scheduled reopening.
“Similar to the situation in the U.K., the delta variant is currently the greatest threat to the U.S. to our attempt to eliminate COVID-19,” Fauci said Tuesday.
“The transmissibility is unquestionably greater than the wild type SARS-CoV-2 as well as the alpha variant. It is associated with an increased disease severity as reflected by hospitalization risk,” he said.
Fauci said the good news is, however, that COVID-19 vaccines have shown to be very effective against the strain, and urged those who have yet to be vaccinated to do so.
The Pfizer-BioNTech shot showed to be 88 percent effective against symptomatic disease and 96 percent effective against hospitalization.
“We have the tools, so let’s use them and crush the outbreak,” he said.
Fauci’s comments come as the White House acknowledged Tuesday it’s likely to fall short of its goal of administering at least one dose of vaccine to 70 percent of American adults by July 4. More than 70 percent of Americans 30 and older, however, have received at least one dose.
Despite the threat posed by delta, the country’s current seven day average for new cases is 10,352, a decrease of nearly 18 percent from the previous week, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). It’s the lowest average of new cases since March 2020, when the outbreak began to intensify across the U.S.
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