Fauci warns that US circumstances “might plateau once more at unacceptably excessive ranges”

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute for Allergies and Infectious Diseases, testifies prior to the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) hearing on June 30, 2020 on Capitol Hill in Washington DC in Washington DC.

Kevin Dietsch | AFP via Getty Images

The Chief Medical Officer of the White House, Dr. Anthony Fauci, warned that Covid-19 cases in the United States could plateau again at very high levels, even if the nation quickly gave three vaccines.

The decline in the number of cases observed since the beginning of January now appears to be “declining a little more slowly,” Fauci told the Center for Strategic and International Studies during an interview on Tuesday afternoon. “That means we could plateau again at an unacceptably high level.”

The nation registers at least 58,100 new Covid-19 cases and at least 1,560 virus-related deaths each day, based on a 7-day average calculated by CNBC using data from Johns Hopkins University. The US hit a high of nearly 250,000 cases per day in early January after the winter break. Cases have spiked before falling and plateauing two more times in the past year.

Some health professionals fear the US may see a “fourth wave” of infections as new, highly contagious varieties continue to spread and some states lift restrictions on containing the virus. Senior U.S. officials, including Fauci, say resetting restrictions too early could reverse the downward trend in infections and delay the nation’s recovery from the pandemic.

“There is a light at the end of this tunnel, but we must be prepared that the road ahead of us may not be slippery,” said CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky earlier this month.

Fauci urged Americans on Tuesday to wear masks, social distancing and get vaccinated. The virus cannot mutate if it cannot infect hosts and cannot multiply.

He also said the US is now assessing the effects of “native” varieties, including those believed to be from New York. The strain, which researchers call B.1.526, is spreading rapidly in New York City and, according to The New York Times, has a mutation that could weaken the effectiveness of vaccines.

Last week, Fauci said the Biden administration was taking the emergence of the New York tribe “very seriously.” He said US officials must “keep an eye on” the strain, including the possibility that it could evade protection from antibody treatments and vaccines.

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