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Anthony Fauci. Photo: Sarah Silbiger/UPI/Bloomberg via Getty Images

If America's current COVID-19 surge continues unabated into the fall and winter, the country will likely face an even more deadly strain of the virus that could evade the current coronavirus vaccines, NIAID director Anthony Fauci told McClatchy Wednesday.

Why it matters: Fauci's comments underscore the importance of acting quickly to vaccinate the tens of millions of Americans who have not been inoculated against the virus.

  • The current surge in coronavirus cases nationwide is being driven by the Delta variant, which is already more contagious than the original strain of the virus.

The big picture: As the virus continues to spread due to insufficient vaccination rates, it is being given "ample" time to mutate into a more dangerous new variant in the fall and winter, Fauci said.

  • "[Q]uite frankly, we’re very lucky that the vaccines that we have now do very well against the variants — particularly against severe illness," Fauci said, emphasizing that this might not be the case with a new variant.
  • “If another one comes along that has an equally high capability of transmitting but also is much more severe, then we could really be in trouble,” he said.
  • “People who are not getting vaccinated mistakenly think it’s only about them. But it isn’t. It’s about everybody else, also.”

State of play: Other variants are already cropping up.

  • On Tuesday South Korea announced that it had detected two cases of the Delta Plus variant, one in a man who had recently returned from the U.S., Reuters reports. Some experts believe the Delta Plus variant could be more contagious than the Delta variant.
  • The Lambda variant, which originated from Peru last year, has already been detected in the U.S.
  • Recent studies indicated that Lambda could be more resistant to the current COVID-19 vaccines, according to Reuters.

Go deeper

Tina Reed, author of Vitals
Nov 10, 2021 - Health

Exclusive: U.S. will speed COVID vaccines to conflict zones

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

The Biden administration is set to announce today that it has brokered a deal to get more doses of the Johnson & Johnson COVID vaccine into conflict zones around the world, a senior White House official tells Axios.

Why it matters: Getting the rest of the world vaccinated will save lives — and reduce the chances of more new variants.

Nov 10, 2021 - Health

Health insurance costs for workers rose 4% during pandemic

Illustration: Megan Robinson/Axios

Health insurance provided by employers this year cost an average of $22,200 for families and $7,700 for individuals, a 4% increase from a year ago, according to new survey data from the Kaiser Family Foundation.

Why it matters: While many people lost their jobs and health insurance during the pandemic, most companies didn't rock the boat heading into 2021. But even a relatively modest increase in the already high costs of job-based insurance means workers and families continue to pay a lot more for their health care.

Thousands without power as "hazardous" winter storm lashes East Coast

Winter view from Charlotte as winter storm Izzy creates dangerous conditions in Charlotte, N.C. on Jan. 16. Photo: Peter Zay/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

A major winter storm was lashing much of the East Coast on Sunday, causing widespread power outages and disrupting travel over the holiday weekend.

The big picture: Heavy snow and ice accumulations are "likely to produce hazardous travel," downed trees and more power outages from the Mid-South to the Northeast, per the National Weather Service. Some parts of the U.S. can expect to see up to a foot of snow through Monday.