Dr Anthony Fauci says nation could be on the brink of a ‘disturbing surge’ in infections
The USA could be on the brink of a “disturbing surge” in COVID cases as worshippers pack out churches and some 1.6 million people fly over the Easter weekend, Dr Anthony Fauci has warned.
Experts are debating whether a “fourth wave” is taking hold as cases surge again in 25 states, many of them battling the deadlier and more transmissible B117, or UK, variant.
Overnight, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Dr Fauci said the nation could see a “disturbing” new spike following the Easter holiday.
He implored Americans to “hang in there a bit longer” and refrain becoming complacent by thinking the country has beaten the virus.
Speaking with CNN over the weekend, he said: “Just yesterday, we had over 60,000 new cases in a day. That’s disturbing.
“That’s what happened in Europe, and what is happening, and Europe, for the most part, is going through another disturbing surge.
“There is the danger of having a resurgence. And another big surge. So, don’t declare, prematurely, victory. Because we’re not there yet.”
Some 1.6 million Americans have taken to the skies to see their families interstate this Easter, despite the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) still advising against non-essential travel. Many churches have also seen packed services.
Despite its advice, the CDC gave those who are fully vaccinated the green light to travel both domestically and internationally on Friday, leading to a much higher number of travellers flying than this time last year.
Mark Howell, a spokesman for TSA, told Axios the rise in numbers is mainly down to spring-breakers flocking to places like Florida.
‘The vaccine is going to win’
Meanwhile, Dr Fauci has urged people to not take unnecessary risks and to remain vigilant as the virus continues to spread.
“This is not going to last forever,” he said. “Double down, just hang in there a bit longer, and the vaccinations of people in this country are going to override the surge of the virus.
“The vaccine is going to win out. It’s not going to be easy. I hope we have a degree of success.”
Dr Fauci also reminded Americans that as more and more people get vaccinated, it would lessen the chance another surge has of gripping the country.
This week, the US administered more than four million doses of coronavirus vaccine in one day, setting a new record.
Despite this, COVID cases have spiked in several states.
Government figures show increases in 25 states, with just five states reporting declining rates.
More alarmingly, on the whole, the US has reported an increase of 63,000 new daily cases – a 17 per cent increase from the week before.
In Michigan, case numbers rose 52 per cent in the past week, making it the unenviable leader of the pack, with infection rates also climbing in New York, Pennsylvania, Minnesota and Indiana.
Canada also reporting surge in virus cases
Trouble is also brewing north of the border in Canada, which is seeing a resurgence of the coronavirus that is hitting more young people with severe illness than before and straining some healthcare systems.
With 2000 new cases of COVID-19 announced in British Columbia on Saturday evening, Canada topped one million cases since the start of the pandemic, according to figures reported by broadcasters.
The two most populous provinces, Ontario and Quebec, headed into the Easter weekend tightening public health measures.
Ontario, home to more than a third of Canada’s cases, stepped up restrictions for at least four weeks.
It’s feared the surge in the US state of Michigan and parts of Canada may foreshadow what’s to come elsewhere in the US as people move around more and the highly contagious UK virus variant spreads.
UK variant plus complacency fuelling virus spread
Ali Mokdad, of the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME), said that the more easily transmitted B117 variant first seen in Britain is fuelling the spread, but so is people’s behaviour.
“B117 surge is unfolding in the northern states of the US and Canada. The rapid increases in cases seen in Michigan may be a marker of what may unfold in other parts of the US and Canada,” he said.
“Cases and deaths are increasing in Europe despite extensive social distancing mandates, slowly increasing vaccination rates, and reduced mobility.”
Back in the US, some states are going the opposite direction, with seven state governors (Arkansas, Iowa, Mississippi, Montana, North Dakota, Texas and Wyoming) removing mask mandates, despite the several health experts stressing that they must still be used.
Interestingly, Texas COVID cases are at their lowest rate since last June, three weeks after dropping its mask mandate – a move US President Joe Biden blasted as “Neanderthal thinking”.
Despite America’s aggressive vaccine rollout, experts have been weary of overstating the benefits of the jab.
Epidemiologist Dr Eric Feigl-Ding warned US officials of easing restrictions too soon. Dr Feigl-Ding used Chile as an example, where the government has implemented another strict lockdown in capital Santiago, despite administering the jab to a third of its population.
“Chile made a critical mistake – its government eased restrictions on travel, business and schools much too early, creating a false sense of confidence that pandemic was over. This has always been my fear,” he tweeted.
He also criticised certain state governments of creating “the sense the pandemic is basically over”.
“Basically this euphoria and false sense of success will cause people to potentially become EVEN MORE RECKLESS and cavalier in their personal behaviours – which may lead people to spread the virus more among those unvaccinated and recently vaccinated with incomplete protection yet,” he wrote.
Leaders urge people to vaccinate
It comes as Mr Biden urged people to get jabbed in an Easter message with First Lady Jill Biden.
In the message, the President said: “The virus has not gone, and so many of us still feel the longing and loneliness of distance.
“We share the sentiments of Pope Francis, who said that getting vaccinated is a moral obligation – one that can save your life and the lives of others.
“By getting vaccinated and encouraging your congregations and your communities to vaccinate, we not only can beat this virus, we can also hasten the day we can celebrate the holidays together again.”
So far in the US, around 31 million people have contracted COVID since the start of the pandemic have been recorded in the US. The death tally stands at 555,000.