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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

Sep 25, 2021 - Health

Montana VA medical center to treat non-veterans amid COVID surge

Billings Clinic in Billings, Montana, on Nov. 11, 2020. Photo: Lynn Donaldson/Bloomberg via Getty Images

A veterans medical facility in Montana is planning to accept non-eligible patients as a COVID-19 surge overwhelms nearby hospitals in the state, CNN reports.

Why it matters: The move underscores the dire health situation in Montana due to the latest COVID-19 case surge, where some hospitals in the state have started to consider rationing care, according to the Montana Free Press.

Sep 24, 2021 - Health

Delta asks other carriers to share "no-fly" lists of unruly passengers

Photo: Mario Tama/Getty Images

Delta Air Lines wants competitors to release their no-fly lists of banned passengers who have exhibited unruly behavior, CNBC reports.

Why it matters: Flight attendants and pilot labor unions have voiced their concerns about handling hostile passengers at unprecedented rates since the start of the pandemic.

Sep 26, 2021 - Health

New York prepares for staff shortages from health vaccine mandate

New York Gov. Kathy Hochul during a news conference Tuesday in New York City. Photo: Mark Kauzlarich/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Gov. Kathy Hochul (D) announced Saturday she would declare a state of emergency if there were health worker shortages due to New York's upcoming COVID-19 vaccine mandate.

Why it matters: Hochul moved to reassure concerns of staffing shortages in the health care sector in a statement that also outlined plans to call in medically trained National Guard members, workers from outside New York and retirees if necessary when the mandate takes effect Monday.