BETHESDA, Maryland - White House medical adviser and infectious disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci said he expects another increase in COVID-19 cases in the coming weeks in the United States, with a more serious surge that could arrive in the fall.
"I would not be surprised if we see an uptick in cases," Fauci said during an exclusive interview with Bloomberg Television on Wednesday.
Fauci noted that the increase could come "over the next couple of weeks," potentially fueled by the high transmissibility of BA.2 — a subvariant of the omicron variant.
Fauci says we could see COVID-19 surge in fall
Fauci, who is also the director of the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, noted that it is very difficult to accurately predict when the next surge will happen, but said, "it is likely that we will see a surge in the fall" when the weather gets cooler and as immunity from the virus wanes.
Currently, about half of eligible Americans have received booster shots, and there have been nearly 80 million confirmed infections overall.
One study from earlier this year used those factors and others to estimate that 73% of Americans were, at the time, immune to omicron. And according to health experts, this could prevent or shorten new illnesses in protected people and reduce the amount of the virus circulating overall, likely tamping down new waves.
Immunity from virus, vaccination may ease wave of COVID-19 cases
"When you combine the immunity that many people have following infection, with the immunity that people who have been vaccinated and hopefully boosted have, there’s a significant amount of background immunity," Fauci continued.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, prepares to receive his first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine at the National Institutes of Health on December 22, 2020 in Bethesda, Maryland. (Photo by Patrick Se
Some states have shown small rises recently in COVID-19 cases, but overall cases are still at the lowest since last summer and hospitalizations are at a pandemic low.
But most health experts cite that immunity from the COVID-19 vaccine wanes over time, so the best way to avoid another surge is by getting more people vaccinated and boosted against the virus.
COVID-19 booster may be effective against BA.2 variant, study shows
In fact, new evidence released last month showed a booster dose of the coronavirus vaccine may provide protection against BA.2.
Researchers from Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center examined neutralizing antibodies produced after vaccination or infection.
The study, funded in part by the National Institutes of Health’s National Cancer Institute and published in the New England Journal of Medicine, found that after a booster vaccination, levels of antibodies in the blood that could bind to and neutralize a new omicron variant increased substantially.
"After the booster dose, levels of antibodies that could neutralize BA.2 jumped substantially. The number that could recognize BA.2—as well as BA.1—after the booster dose was higher than those recognizing the original virus after only the first two shots," the NIH wrote. "
Fauci hopes US won’t see surge in hospitalizations
If an uptick does become a surge, Fauci said he hopes the U.S. won’t see a large increase in hospitalizations due to existing background immunity.
The NIH is currently conducting studies to determine what the best booster in fall should be — an omicron boost or a boost of the original ancestral strain. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration and its committee also met this week to discuss how and when vaccines should be modified.
US death toll from COVID-19 hits 900,000
In February, the U.S. death toll from COVID-19 hit 900,000. President Joe Biden lamented the milestone, saying, "After nearly two years, I know that the emotional, physical, and psychological weight of this pandemic has been incredibly difficult to bear."
He again urged Americans to get vaccinations and booster shots.
"Two hundred and fifty million Americans have stepped up to protect themselves, their families, and their communities by getting at least one shot — and we have saved more than one million American lives as a result," Biden said.
As of Friday, 75.6% of adults in the U.S. were fully vaccinated, or about 195 million Americans, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Some 98.4 million people have received a booster dose of the vaccine.
This story was reported from Los Angeles.