Coronavirus infections are more than ten times higher than they need to be in order to end the pandemic, Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease doctor, told the political news site Axios.
There are currently roughly 150,000 new infections a day in the United States. “That’s not even modestly good control,” Dr. Fauci told Axios.
He added, “In a country of our size, you can’t be hanging around and having 100,000 infections a day. You’ve got to get well below 10,000 before you start feeling comfortable.”
Case rates did fall to almost that level in June, when there were roughly 12,000 new infections per day, on average.
But that was before the highly infectious Delta variant spread widely throughout the country, causing a major surge in cases and hospitalizations, especially in areas of the country with low vaccination rates.
That surge has also impacted children, who are currently being hospitalized at the highest levels reported to date, with nearly 30,000 entering hospitals in August. No vaccine has been cleared for children younger than 12, who make up a sizable unvaccinated population in the United States.
In an interview with Apoorva Mandavilli, a New York Times reporter who covers science and global health, Dr. Fauci said that “we are still in the middle of a serious pandemic, and it is definitely involving children.”
“We’re seeing more children in the hospital now, because the Delta variant is more readily transmissible among everybody, adults and children,” Dr. Fauci said in the interview, which appeared on The Times’s website on Thursday.
Children still remain markedly less likely to be hospitalized or die from Covid-19 than adults, especially older adults. But experts say that the growing number of hospitalized children, however small compared with adults, should not be an afterthought, and should instead encourage communities to work harder to protect their youngest residents.
Although concerns have been growing about breakthrough infections, which officials acknowledge are not as rare as they once indicated, the vaccines continue to provide robust protection against the worst outcomes, including hospitalization and death.
Vaccination remains the best path out of the pandemic, experts and health officials have repeatedly said. “The endgame is to suppress the virus,” Dr. Fauci told Axios. “Right now, we’re still in pandemic mode.”