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Fauci: new Covid-19 cases are at a disturbing level, U.S. is primed for a surge

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Dr. Payal Patel, Infectious Diseases Physician, joined Yahoo Finance to discuss the latest on covid-19.

Video Transcript

EMILY MCCORMICK: Even with the pace of vaccinations ramping up in the US, cases are also back on the rise, especially with a variant of the virus first identified in the UK now making its way across the country. Dr. Anthony Fauci telling CNN yesterday that new COVID-19 cases have plateaued at a, quote, "disturbingly high level," and that the US is at risk for another surge.

With us now is Dr. Payal Patel, infectious diseases physician joining us from Ann Arbor, Michigan. And Dr. Patel, I want to start off with those remarks from Dr. Anthony Fauci. Based on what you're seeing, where are we now in terms of getting the pandemic under control in the US, especially with the fact that we have simultaneously more vaccines rolling out faster than expected, but also this latest spike in coronavirus cases?

PAYAL PATEL: Yeah, I think that we're definitely in a different spot than we were a few months ago. But the thing is, we're beginning to see this big surge. And who are the people that are coming into the hospital? It's unvaccinated folks. So it's not surprising. The vaccine works.

But even despite all of the work that's being done, only one in five people in the state are fully vaccinated. So there's a ton of people walking around, kind of getting back to normal life, who are still at risk for COVID. And with the variants, we think that it is possible that it's more contagious. So we're often seeing families who are all getting infected kind of at the same time.

SEANA SMITH: Then, doctor, is that why we're seeing this surge, what the CDC was warning about yesterday, saying the hospitals are seeing more young adults with severe COVID symptoms. The severe COVID symptoms was what got my attention. Why is that? Is that because of the variants or something else?

PAYAL PATEL: Yeah, you know, there's, like, really great news. And that is that so many people in nursing homes have been vaccinated. We've done a fantastic job getting kind of the older generation vaccinated. And we're not seeing them in the hospital. That's really good news. Those are the folks that were-- really had kind of a high risk of death if they did get sick. Now we're beginning to see 20, 30, 40, 50-year-olds, people who may have not had a chance to get vaccinated, who weren't sure if they were going to get vaccinated, and they're having symptoms bad enough that are causing them to come into the hospital.

EMILY MCCORMICK: And Dr. Patel, we're getting to the point where a lot of states are talking about making major reopening pushes. We just had California talking about a June 15 date to reopen their entire economy and New York talking about reopening beaches in time for Memorial Day. And I'm wondering if you think these moves are wise right now, considering the latest trends in the coronavirus infections and hospitalizations and if it might be too early to be setting up these spring and summer dates for reopening.

PAYAL PATEL: Yeah, I mean, I think it's really a race against time right now. It's an equation between how many people will get vaccinated and can get vaccinated, and the variant and the virus kind of going wild. And the more people that get vaccinated, really, the quicker we can get back to having that summer. But if we can't convince our friends and family to get vaccinated, if you can't get in line to get vaccinated, those are really going to be the barriers to us enjoying the summer and seeing what happens in the fall and in the winter.

SEANA SMITH: Doctor, this week, we've heard a number of colleges, or a few colleges, I should say, come out and say that they will be requiring students to get a vaccine in order to return to campus in the fall. What's your reaction to that? Is that something that all colleges and universities should be implementing?

PAYAL PATEL: You know, if I was a college student going back, I'd want to go back to what I enjoyed in college-- hanging out with my friends, going out, going to class, learning. All of those things are going to be so much safer for students if they're vaccinated. And that's what I think matters at the end of the day. So I think it makes a lot of sense.

EMILY MCCORMICK: All right, Dr. Payal Patel, infectious diseases physician, thank you so much for joining us.