Aug 8, 2021 - Health

"The world needs a reality check," health expert warns as COVID surges

An army officer administers a vaccine to a man with face mask

An Army officer administers the AstraZeneca vaccine to a Tunisian man at Oued Ellil high school in Manouba. Photo: Jdidi Wassim/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

As COVID-19 case numbers surge across the United States and globally due to highly contagious variants of the virus, experts warn that people are not learning the lessons of the pandemic, the Washington Post reports.

Why it matters: Resistance to the measures that could tamper the virus' spread — masking, social distancing, and most importantly, vaccination — could draw out the length of the pandemic and keep a return to normal life at bay.

The big picture: Last week the world surpassed 200 million global COVID-19 infections, a milestone that pointed toward an accelerating spread. It took about a year for the world to reach 100 million cases, and only six months to double that, the New York Times reported.

  • NIAID director Anthony Fauci said last week that he fears an even more deadly strain of the virus could be imminent as lagging vaccination rates allow the virus to continue mutating.
  • Other variants, such as Delta Plus and Lambda, are already cropping up.

The evolution of new variants also means a population's vaccination rate has to be higher in order to reach herd immunity. If epidemiologists had hoped a 70-80% vaccination rate would tamper the original virus, a more contagious variant could require a rate closer to 90%, the Washington Post reported.

What they're saying: “The world needs a reality check," Maria Van Kerkhove, an epidemiologist at the World Health Organization, told the Post, adding that the world should be prepared for more variants.

  • “It’s like we’ve been to this movie several times in the last year and a half, and it doesn’t end well. Somehow, we’re running the tape again. It’s all predictable,” Francis S. Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health, told the Post about the cycle of prematurely easing restrictions only to have cases surge.
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