"The endgame is to suppress the virus," Fauci told Axios. "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."
As of Sept. 7, the latest federal figures, the country recorded a seven-day moving average of 140,058 daily infections, while an estimated 62.4% of Americans aged 12 and older are fully vaccinated. President Biden is expected to announce later on Thursday a six-part strategy to tamp down spread of the delta variant and boost vaccinations.
"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 said.
The U.S. will continue to grapple with the current rate of infections until more Americans roll their sleeves and receive COVID-19 vaccine, he said, adding "you'll still get some people getting infected, but you're not going to have it as a public health threat."
The highly transmissible delta variant, which doubles the hospitalization risk among unvaccinated populations, remains the dominant strain in the U.S., while health officials keep an eye on the new mu variant detected in at least 49 states. Last week, Fauci told a White House briefing officials don’t consider the mu variant "an immediate threat right now." Nationwide the mu variant has been detected in less than 1% of samples, according to estimates compiled by Outbreak.info.