Covid-19 cases in the U.S. need to fall “well below 10,000” per day for the country to achieve some semblance of pre-pandemic life, White House chief medical advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci estimated Tuesday.
The U.S. reported an average of nearly 83,500 new Covid cases every day over the last week, a 14% increase from the week before, according to a CNBC analysis of data from Johns Hopkins University. Fauci said in an interview at the 2021 STAT Summit that Covid cases may need to fall as low as 3,300 per day for the nation to gain control over the virus.
Daily infections in the U.S. haven’t been below 10,000 since March 2020.
“I think if we can get well below 10,000, I think that would be a level that I think would be acceptable to us to get back to a degree of normality,” Fauci said. “But again, I have to warn the listeners, these are not definitive statements — these are just estimates.”
Covid cases in the U.S. plateaued at between 70,000 and 75,000 per day for almost three weeks before starting to rise again toward the end of last week. Fauci said cases stabilizing at that high a level was a sign that the nation had “really bad control” over the pandemic, noting that the U.S. could be “in for some trouble” heading into the winter without taking proper public health precautions.
The country’s approximately 60 million unvaccinated, eligible adults are fueling the latest uptick, Fauci said in an interview Monday night on “The News with Shepard Smith.” He said Tuesday that booster shots would help counter new cases, hospitalizations and the waning immunity of current Covid vaccines over time.
The more-contagious delta variant will also thrive if Covid cases remain elevated in the U.S., affecting both unvaccinated people and vaccinated people with waning immunity, Fauci said.
“The unvaccinated are clearly highly vulnerable, but as long as you get a high dynamic of virus in the population, you’re going to start seeing breakthrough infections, even more so than we see now,” Fauci said.
But vaccines for the unimmunized, boosters for the vaccinated and facial coverings in indoor settings could help keep the virus at bay over the coming months and avoid outbreaks similar to those currently plaguing Europe, Fauci said. The continent recorded roughly 2.1 million new Covid cases in the last week, a surge the World Health Organization blames on the decreased use of masks and social distancing.
Certain regions across the U.S. are driving up infections more than others, according to Hopkins data. The weekly average of daily new cases per capita rose in the Midwest and Northeast by 31% and 19%, respectively, as of Monday, compared with a 12% increase in the South and an 8% increase in the West.
— CNBC’s Nate Rattner contributed to this report.