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Fauci: Amount of virus in breakthrough delta cases 'almost identical' to unvaccinated

The Hill logo The Hill 8/1/2021 Joseph Choi
Anthony S. Fauci wearing a suit and tie smiling and looking at the camera: Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, arrives to testify before the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee on Tuesday, July 20, 2021 © New York Times/Pool Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, arrives to testify before the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee on Tuesday, July 20, 2021

Anthony Fauci, President Biden's chief medical adviser, on Sunday discussed new Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) data that showed the levels of coronavirus in breakthrough cases of the delta variant among those who are fully vaccinated are "almost identical" to the levels seen among unvaccinated individuals.

Appearing on CBS's "Face the Nation," Fauci stressed that the majority of breakthrough cases involving the delta variant saw "minimal symptoms or no symptoms at all."

Guest host John Dickerson asked Fauci what the CDC's reasoning was for recommending masks be worn by both vaccinated and unvaccinated people indoors.


Video: Covid-19 in the US: Surge in cases fueled by Delta variant, vaccine hesitancy (The Independent)

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"What we learned that's new, John, in answer to your question, is that when you look at the level of virus in the nasopharynx of people who are vaccinated who get breakthrough infections, it's really quite high and equivalent to the level of virus in the nasopharynx of unvaccinated people who get infected," Fauci said.

The nasopharynx is part of the nasal cavity located above the back of the throat. Fauci stated that it was "troubling" to find that the level of virus from the delta variant in both vaccinated and unvaccinated people is "really quite similar, almost identical."

According to Fauci, these findings differ from what was observed in cases involving the previously dominant alpha variant.

"So we know now that vaccinated people who get breakthrough infections can spread the virus to other people," Fauci said. "The fundamental basis for the CDC modifying their guidelines and saying now, 'If you're an area of a high or substantial trend of level of virus, namely a red or an orange zone, when you're in an indoor public setting, you need to wear a mask.' That's the fundamental reason for that change."

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