One in 50 Americans Has COVID in Some Areas—Before New Variants Have Taken Hold

January 8, 2021
Newsweek asked experts in infectious disease, epidemiology and modeling whether the U.S. is or would soon be at the point where one in 50 people was infected with COVID, and whether the new U.K. variant would be to blame.

Asked whether he expected to see U.S. cases spike as fast as they did in the U.K. due to B.1.1.7, Fauci told Newsweek: "The United States already has a lot of problems with the surging of cases over the last several weeks." He said: "It isn't a question of whether the United States cases will surge, they are surging. Whether or not that's due to the U.K. mutation [variant] we don't know."

Jagpreet Chhatwal, an assistant professor at Harvard Medical School who works on The COVID-19 Simulator forecasting project, said his team's model showed around one in 200 people in the U.S. currently has COVID-19 but there is a "huge variation across states." In California, his model puts the figure at one in 75 people, and one in 200 people in New York.

"If this [one in 50 people infected] has happened in the U.K., there is no reason to believe it can't happen in the US," he said. "I believe it will be due to a combination of both, the new variant [B.1.1.7] as well as how the US has (mis)handled the pandemic."

He went on: "'We already saw a record number of hospitalizations and deaths in December. Sadly, January is expected to be worse than December."