Fauci worries about South Dakota motorcycle rally and possibility of ‘even worse’ new Covid variant

Dr Anthony Fauci said in a new interview he’s concerned that unvaccinated groups could lead to stronger strain

Sheila Flynn
Sunday 08 August 2021 20:17 BST
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Dr Anthony Fauci has said that he’s worried not only about the annual Sturgis motorcycle rally currently underway in South Dakota – which last year became a superspreader event – but he’s also concerned about further mutations of the virus which could be more dangerous than the Delta variant.

Dr Fauci told Meet The Press host Chuck Todd that he was extremely concerned “that we’re going to see another surge related to that rally”.

The motorcycle event in Sturgis is expected to draw at least 700,000 people. Last year, only a fraction of the usual attendance numbers turned up, with about 150,000 enthusiasts – but hundreds still got infected and then returned to their homes across the country.

South Dakota officials are attempting to raise vaccine awareness in conjunction with the event, but only about 46 per cent of residents in the host county have been vaccinated compared to a national 60.6 per cent. Authorities have further tried to reduce risk by allowing alcohol consumption in public areas in an attempt to keep people outdoors.

“I mean, to me, it’s understandable that people want to do the kinds of things they want to do,” Dr Fauci said. “They want their freedom to do that. But there comes a time when you’re dealing with a public health crisis that could involve you, your family and everyone else – that something supersedes that need to do exactly what you want to do.

“I mean, you’re going to ultimately be able to do that in the future, but let’s get this pandemic under control before we start acting like nothing is going on. I mean, something bad is going on ... we’ve got to realize that.”

And it could ultimately get worse, Dr Fauci said, even as the Delta variant ravages the country with a particular aggression – especially in the Southern states, where vaccine opposition remains higher, and fuelled in part by some governors’ refusal to implement school mask mandates.

“What happens if you allow the virus to freely circulate ... there’s a tenet that everybody knows in virology,” he said on the programme. “A virus will not mutate unless you allow it to replicate. So, if you allow the virus to freely circulate and not try and stop it, sooner or later there is a likelihood that you will get another variant that could – I’m not saying it will, that could – be more problematic than the Delta.

“Fortunately for us, the vaccines do quite well against Delta, particularly in protecting you from severe disease. But if you give the virus the chance to continue to change, you’re leading to a vulnerability that we might get a worse variant.

“And then, that will impact not only the unvaccinated; that will impact the vaccinated, because that variant could evade the protection of the vaccine. So people who are unvaccinated should think about their own health, that of their family but also the community responsibility to crush this virus before it becomes even worse.”

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