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5 Ways COVID Could Get Even Worse

"We could really be in trouble," says Dr. Anthony Fauci.

This spring, we thought the worst was behind us. Then the coronavirus Delta variant canceled "hot vax summer"—the hope of the vaccinated that they'd be able to socialize and celebrate like it was 2019—before it even began. Now cases are surging, primarily among the unvaccinated, and it's clear the U.S. has deeper concerns at hand. "The virus is evolving," said Dr. Ashish Jha, dean of Brown University's School of Public Health, this week. "I know a lot about the version that was around last summer. This version is pretty different." The fact that the coronavirus is continuing to spread and evolve among those who refuse the vaccine means the pandemic could get much worse, experts warned this week. Here's how. Read on to find out more, and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You Have "Long" COVID and May Not Even Know It.  


Cases Will Rise

For Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation's top infectious-disease expert, there's no question the COVID situation in the U.S. will worsen. "Things are going to get worse," he said on ABC's This Week last Sunday. "We're looking to some pain and suffering in the future because we're seeing the cases go up." 

The daily caseload is now well above what it was last summer, before an available vaccine. "Remember, just a couple of months ago, we were having about 10,000 cases a day," Fauci told McClatchy DC on Wednesday. "I think you're likely going to wind up somewhere between 100,000 and 200,000 cases."


Deaths Could Rise Dramatically

The Delta variant is primarily spreading among the unvaccinated. The current COVID vaccines remain highly effective against severe illness, hospitalization and death. But given the current rate of vaccination and the surge in Delta cases, COVID-related deaths could still skyrocket from current levels.

According to the New York Times on Aug. 5, the seven-day moving average of nationwide COVID deaths was 439. In late July, experts predicted that at the current rate of spread, the U.S. could see 4,000 COVID-related deaths a day by October.

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More Severe Variants Could Develop

Infected patient in quarantine lying in bed in hospital.

The longer the virus continues to circulate, the greater the chances a variant may develop that may be more severe and elude the protection of current vaccines. 

"Quite frankly, we're very lucky that the vaccines that we have now do very well against the variants — particularly against severe illness," Fauci told McClatchy. "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."

"That will happen if we don't get good control over the community spread, which is the reason why I and my colleagues keep saying and over again, it is very important to get as many people vaccinated as we possibly can," Fauci said on Good Morning America Thursday.

More variants have already been detected: The Delta Plus variant is reportedly more contagious than Delta, and the Lambda variant, which originated in Peru and has been detected in the U.S., is believed to render current vaccines less effective.

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Restrictions Could Return

Costco social distancing

Although most experts agree it's unlikely that the full lockdowns of last year will resume, some restrictions like social distancing, mask mandates and limits on large gatherings could return. 

The CDC has already walked back its mask guidance for fully vaccinated people. Originally, the agency advised that fully vaccinated people no longer needed to mask indoors. In the face of the Delta surge, the CDC now recommends that everyone wear masks indoors in localities where there is "substantial or high transmission."

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Everyone Could Contract The Delta Variant

Woman with temperature staying home wrapped in scarf and drinking hot tea.

The Delta variant is so contagious that infectious disease experts warn the U.S. might need a 90% vaccination rate to achieve herd immunity. (Right now, only 61% of Americans older than 18 are fully vaccinated, and only 50% of Americans of all ages.) 

Although breakthrough infections are relatively rare right now, some experts say they may become much more common. "This infection, this virus, this variant is going to spare no one," said Jha. And to get through this pandemic at your healthiest, don't miss these 35 Places You're Most Likely to Catch COVID.

Michael Martin
Michael Martin is a New York City-based writer and editor whose health and lifestyle content has also been published on Beachbody and Openfit. A contributing writer for Eat This, Not That!, he has also been published in New York, Architectural Digest, Interview, and many others. Read more about Michael
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