As the aggressive delta variant continues to push up cases of COVID-19 around the country, the nation’s top infectious disease expert warned on Sunday that "things are going to get worse."
But Dr. Anthony Fauci stopped short of saying sweeping shutdowns will once again be needed to battle the disease.
"So we're looking not, I believe, to lock down, but we're looking to some pain and suffering in the future," Fauci, who serves as chief medical adviser to President Joe Biden and director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said on ABCs "This Week."
Fauci said the United States has "enough of the percentage of the people in the country" vaccinated "to not allow us to get into the situation we were in last winter," but said the current percentage of vaccinated Americans is still "not enough to crush the outbreak."
There were 32,808 new cases of COVID-19 reported in the United States as of Sunday, according to the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine Coronavirus Resource Center. Overall statistics from the center show there have been over 34 million COVID-19 cases in the country since the start of an outbreak that has claimed over 600,000 U.S. lives.
As of Sunday, more than 164 million Americans were fully vaccinated, or 49.5% of the population, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
In New York, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said 2,516 new positive cases were reported on Saturday, including 213 in Nassau County and 230 in Suffolk County.
The seven-day average of new positive COVID-19 cases on Long Island has ticked up steadily in recent days. It was 2.9% on Friday and Saturday, up from 2.7% on Thursday and 2.6% on Wednesday.
There were nine new deaths reported due to COVID-19 on Saturday, including one person in Nassau County.
"This virus has always been unpredictable, and in the face of the Delta variant, our hard-won progress is only as good as our determination to build on it," Cuomo said in a statement.
"The vaccine is free, safe and effective — and our strongest weapon in this ongoing fight. If you are still unvaccinated, you remain vulnerable and it is critical that you get your shot as quickly as possible."
State figures show 11 million people in New York have been fully vaccinated for COVID-19 — over 55% of the total population. On Sunday, Cuomo said 93,818 vaccine doses were administered in New York over the last 24 hours.
Several state-run mass vaccination sites have closed as the state and local governments focus on smaller regions where vaccinations are low, but two remain open on Long Island at Stony Brook University and SUNY Old Westbury. Both have appointments available as well as walk-in appointments.
Appearing on CBS’ "Face the Nation" on Sunday, Fauci said the "pool of unvaccinated people and a virus that spreads very efficiently" has created "a very difficult situation" in the ongoing fight to eradicate the virus.
"We have 100 million people in this country … who are eligible to be vaccinated, who are not vaccinated," Fauci said. "We've really got to get those people to change their minds, make it easy for them, convince them, do something to get them to be vaccinated, because they are the ones that are propagating this outbreak."
Dr. Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health, said during a Sunday interview on CNN’s "State of the Union" that he believed news of the delta variant’s high transmissibility would provide a "tipping point" for those on the fence about getting vaccinated.
Collin said the "silver lining of this is that people are waking up to this, and this may be a tipping point for those who have been hesitant to say, ‘OK, it's time.’" He added: "I hope that's what's happening. That's what desperately needs to happen if we're going to get this delta variant put back in its place."
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