Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute for Allergies and Infectious Diseases, testifies on the federal response to the coronavirus on Capitol Hill during a Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions hearing on March 18, 2021 in Washington, DC.
Susan Walsh | Pool | Getty Images
The recent surge in new Covid-19 infections cannot be attributed to highly communicable variants alone, as more Americans travel to spring break and states lift repeal restrictions, including mask mandates, to slow the spread of the virus, Dr. Anthony Fauci said on Sunday.
After nearly three months of decline, U.S. coronavirus cases are starting to recover. According to a CNBC analysis of data compiled by Johns Hopkins University, the country reports a weekly average of 61,821 new Covid-19 cases per day, up 12% from the previous week.
It is a result that public health experts, including Fauci, have been warning of since late February after daily infections plateaued due to the surge in virus variants that are too common in the US, as in Europe.
A variant first identified in the UK in relation to public health professionals, known as B.1.1.7, has been discovered in all states except Oklahoma, according to the latest data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Other highly transmissible variants, first found in South Africa and Brazil, referred to as B.1.351 and P.1, respectively, have now been identified in the United States. The CDC is carefully tracking another variant found in New York City called B.1.526, which is also believed to be more transmissible compared to previous strains, said agency director Dr. Rochelle Walensky, on Wednesday.
A more transmittable virus could lead to more infections and inevitably hospitalizations and deaths, even if the most at risk are vaccinated against the disease, experts warn, making the race to vaccinate more people crucial. However, Fauci said the disruptive mutations aren’t the only reason the cases are on the rise.
“What we’re likely to see is due to things like the spring break and the withdrawal of the mitigation methods you’ve seen. Now several states have done that,” Fauci told CBS ‘Face the Nation on Sunday.
“We take variations seriously and are concerned, but it’s not just variations that do that,” he said.
Despite repeated warnings from the Biden administration, some states have pushed ahead with reopening their economies, citing accelerated vaccine adoption and declining cases and hospital stays as reasons.
State officials have lifted capacity restrictions on businesses like gyms and restaurants, while a handful of them have canceled or plan to remove statewide mask requirements. Millions of Americans cooped up last year are going back to heaven and using cheap flights and hotels while they last.
“Even if the people on the planes are wearing masks when you get to the airport, the check-in lines, the food lines for restaurants, the boarding that you see, people can gather sometimes, these are things that elevate.” always the risk of infection, “said Fauci on Sunday.
Other senior health officials in Biden have warned that now is not the time to relax restrictions. Walensky said during a press conference at the White House Friday that she was “deeply concerned” with the progress of the nation’s epidemic.
“We have seen cases and hospital admissions that have gone from historical declines to stagnation and growth. We know from previous waves that if we don’t control things now, the epidemic curve can rise again,” Walensky said.
– CNBC’s Leslie Josephs contributed to this report.