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Anthony Fauci at a Senate Appropriations subcommittee hearing in May. Photo: Sarah Silbiger/UPI/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Americans are now getting infected with COVID-19 at 10 times the rate needed to end the pandemic, which will persist until more people get vaccinated, NIAID director Anthony Fauci tells Axios.

Threat level: "The endgame is to suppress the virus. Right now, we're still in pandemic mode, because we have 160,000 new infections a day. That's not even modestly good control ... which means it's a public health threat."

  • "In a country of our size, you can't be hanging around and having 100,000 infections a day. You've got to get well below 10,000 before you start feeling comfortable," Fauci says.
  • Once enough people have been vaccinated, he adds, "you'll still get some people getting infected, but you're not going to have it as a public health threat."

Between the lines: Despite all of the buzz about the Mu variant, which appears to elude some protective properties of authorized vaccines and prior infections, the Delta variant continues to dominate in the U.S. and around the world.

  • The good news: Fauci says this means currently authorized vaccinations are still effective.
  • The bad news: Not enough Americans are taking measures against the Delta variant, which has already upped the stakes.
  • And, the longer it takes to end this pandemic phase, the bigger the chance we'll end up with a "monster variant" that not only eludes vaccines but also is dangerously transmissible.

Go deeper: The COVID vaccines are still the pandemic's endgame

Go deeper

Dec 17, 2021 - Health

Study: J&J vaccine provides little or no protection against Omicron

A patient receives the Sputnik Light vaccine during a home vaccination visit in Kazan, Russia. Photo: Yegor Aleyev\TASS via Getty Images

COVID-19 vaccines produced by Johnson & Johnson and China's Sinopharm, as well as the Russian-made Sputnik V, were found to provide little or no protection against the newly emerging Omicron variant, according to a study out this week.

Driving the news: The study, which was published as a preprint and isn't yet peer-reviewed, found that just three out of 13 people who were fully vaccinated with China's Sinopharm vaccine produced neutralizing antibodies against Omicron.

Updated 11 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Omicron dashboard

Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

  1. Health: Contact tracing fizzles across America — New clues emerge on long COVID — Omicron is finally burning out — It's very difficult to get access to antiviral COVID treatments — Axios-Ipsos poll: Omicron's big numbersAnother wave of death — FDA limits use of Regeneron and Lilly antibody treatments.
  2. Vaccines: Pfizer begins clinical trial for Omicron-specific vaccine — The shifting definition of fully vaccinated.
  3. Politics: Virginia AG says public colleges can't mandate COVID vaccines —Alaska governor joins Texas lawsuit over National Guard vaccine mandate — Navy discharges 45 sailors for refusing vaccine — Spotify to remove Neil Young's music after his Joe Rogan ultimatum — White House: 60M households have ordered free COVID-19 rapid tests.
  4. World: U.K. to lift travel testing requirement for fully vaccinated — Beijing Olympic Committee lowers testing threshold ahead of Games.
  5. Variant tracker
Tina Reed, author of Vitals
Dec 17, 2021 - Health

Weight of COVID pushing health care workforce to breaking point

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

New waves of COVID infections are crashing into a health care system whose workers are at a breaking point — if not already past it.

Why it matters: Hospital workers have had little relief from COVID over the past two years. And that burned-out, dispirited workforce is again being overwhelmed by surges from Delta, while facing the specter of yet another wave from Omicron.