On Monday the global tally for confirmed cases of the coronavirus-borne illness COVID-19 was edging toward 81 million, while the U.S. covid case tally topped 19 million, and experts warned the next few weeks will be hard after many Americans traveled over the Christmas holiday.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, head of the National Institute for Allergies and Infectious Diseases, told CNN’s show “State of the Union” that the U.S. may see a post-seasonal surge. “We’re really at a very critical point,” he said. “If you put more pressure on the system by what might be a post-seasonal surge because of the traveling and the likely congregating of people for, you know, the good warm purposes of being together for the holidays, it’s very tough for people to not do that.”
The latest data from the Transportation Security Administration showed that 1.13 million passengers were screened at U.S. airports on Saturday, the most since mid-March. In the last 10 days, five saw more than 1 million passengers going through U.S. airports.
Fauci said he backs the decision to require negative COVID-19 tests before allowing people from the U.K. to enter the U.S., which comes after a new strain of the virus was detected there. The variant strain is something “to follow very carefully” and “we’re looking at it very intensively now,” he said.
“Does it make someone more ill? Is it more serious virus in the sense of virulence? And the answer is, it doesn’t appear to be that way.” U.K. officials say it appears that the vaccines being rolled out will be strong enough to deal with the new variant but, Fauci said, “we’re going to be doing the studies ourselves.”
The U.S. counted at least 152,102 new cases on Sunday and at least 1,230 people died, according to a New York Times tracker. In the past week, the U.S. has averaged 184,951 cases a day, which is down 12% from two weeks earlier.
There are currently 118,720 COVID-19 patients in U.S. hospitals, according to the COVID Tracking Project, below the record of 119,463 set on Dec. 23, but still worryingly high. Fauci said the U.S. is at a critical phase of the pandemic, with the worst probably still ahead.
He predicted the general population would be immunized widely by late March or early April — beyond the front-line workers, older people and certain other segments of the public who are first in line. The U.S. continues to lead the world by cases, at 19.1 million, and deaths at 333,140, according to data aggregated by Johns Hopkins University, or about a fifth of the global tally for each.
There was relief for many when incumbent President Donald Trump signed a $900 billion pandemic relief package late Sunday, after spending days refusing to do so. The package will offer much-needed cash to businesses and individuals and avert a federal government shutdown, as the Associated Press reported.