With the Delta variant accounting for more than a quarter of Covid-19 cases, Dr. Anthony Fauci warns there could soon be “two Americas” — one where most people are vaccinated and another where low vaccination rates could lead to spikes in cases.
The stark disparity between low and high vaccination areas is something Fauci is “very concerned about,” he told CNN’s Don Lemon on Tuesday night.
“When you have such a low level of vaccination superimposed upon a variant that has a high degree of efficiency of spread, what you are going to see among under-vaccinated regions, be that states, cities or counties, you’re going to see these individual types of blips,” he said. “It’s almost like it’s going to be two Americas.”
Fauci, who heads the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, added that areas with low vaccination rates run the risk of seeing Covid-19 case spikes.
“This is entirely avoidable, entirely preventable. If you are vaccinated, you diminish dramatically your risk of getting infected and even more dramatically your risk of getting seriously ill. If you are not vaccinated, you are at considerable risk,” Fauci warned.
Fauci’s remarks come as the Delta variant, which is more contagious and aggressive, has reached nearly every state in the US and now accounts for 26.1% of Covid-19 cases as of Tuesday, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Experts have said areas with low vaccination rates are more vulnerable to the Delta variant.
In Mississippi, where just 29.7% of the population is fully vaccinated, more than 90% of Covid-19 cases and deaths in the past month have been in unvaccinated people, said Dr. Thomas Dobbs, the state health officer for the Mississippi Department of Public Health.
Mississippi joins Alabama, Arkansas, Wyoming, and Louisiana in having less than 35% of residents fully vaccinated.
As variants spread, health experts are urging people to get fully vaccinated so they can have maximum protection.
Two weeks after the second dose, the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine is 88% effective against symptomatic infections caused by the Delta variant, Fauci has said. Those who received only one dose have less protection.
Moderna’s vaccine was found in lab experiments to work against new variants including the Delta strain, the company said Tuesday.
Serum samples from people who received two shots of the Moderna vaccine showed neutralizing activity against the variants, Moderna said in a pre-print study that hasn’t yet been peer-reviewed.
In terms of the Johnson & Johnson Covid-19 vaccine, Fauci said it’s “highly likely” that it can protect against the Delta variant, though it hasn’t been proven through research yet.
Fauci noted that two doses of the AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine — which uses the same platform as the Johnson & Johnson vaccine — are about 88% effective against the Delta variant, and “you can make the reasonable assumption” the Johnson & Johnson vaccine will be “just as good.”
As of Tuesday, 46.4% of the US population was fully vaccinated, CDC data showed. Sixteen states have fully vaccinated more than half of their population. Additionally, 16 states have reached President Joe Biden’s goal to vaccinate 70% of adults with at least one dose by July 4.
Health officials monitoring spread of variants
As the Delta variant spreads, Fauci said Tuesday he doesn’t foresee the CDC changing its mask guidance for the fully vaccinated.
“For now, the CDC recommendations stand that if in fact you are vaccinated — fully vaccinated — you are protected, and you do not need to wear a mask outdoors or indoors,” he said.
His comments come after Los Angeles County decided to bring back its guidance to wear masks regardless of vaccination status.
The new, voluntary mask guidance is needed until health officials can “better understand how and to who the Delta variant is spreading,” the county’s department of public health said.
The National Association of County and City Health Officials told CNN on Tuesday that Los Angeles County appears to be the only county so far to recommend wearing masks in response to the spread of the Delta variant.
But health officials are continuing to monitor the spread of the variant in the United States, Lori Tremmel Freeman, NACCHO’s chief executive officer, said.
Meanwhile, a poll published by Axios-Ipsos on Tuesday showed that 84% of Americans have heard of the Delta variant, but the number of people practicing safety measures, such as social distancing and masking, continues to decrease.
One in 10 said they were very familiar with the Delta variant, 38% said they were somewhat familiar and 36% said they have heard of it but know almost nothing about it, according to the poll, which was conducted June 25 to 28 and comprised of a nationally representative sample of 1,106 adults.
Covid-19 cases among children are dropping
Children under 12 aren’t yet eligible to receive a Covid-19 vaccine, but there is some good news about declining cases.
More than 8,400 new cases of Covid-19 were reported in children last week, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics’ weekly report, the lowest weekly number of cases since May 2020.
Children represented about 10% of reported Covid-19 cases last week. More than 4.03 million children have tested positive for Covid-19 since the start of the pandemic.
Out of 23 states and New York City reporting hospitalization numbers, between 0.1% and about 2% of cases of Covid-19 in children required hospitalization, the report said.
Children represented less than a quarter of a percent of all Covid-19 deaths in 43 states reporting death numbers. Eight of these states reported zero deaths in children. Out of all states reporting, children make up to 0.03% of all deaths from Covid-19.
“At this time, it still appears that severe illness due to COVID-19 is rare among children,” the report says. “However, there is an urgent need to collect more data on longer-term impacts of the pandemic on children, including ways the virus may harm the long-term physical health of infected children, as well as its emotional and mental health effects.”