In this May 11, 2021, file photo, Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, speaks during a Senate hearing to examine an update from Federal officials on efforts to combat COVID-19, on Capitol Hill in Washington. Credit: Jim Lo Scalzo / AP

Top U.S. infectious-disease expert Anthony Fauci said the delta variant of the coronavirus is causing a significant increase in infections and the Biden administration is “practically pleading” with people to get vaccinated.

Delta is much more capable of spreading from person to person than earlier variants, Fauci said in an interview on Bloomberg TV’s “Balance of Power with David Westin,” stressing that vaccines can protect people from clinically significant disease.

“You are highly protected against severe disease if you are vaccinated, whereas if you are unvaccinated, you have a reasonable chance of getting into trouble,” said Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. Shots provide far stronger protection against clinically apparent illness than against infection, he said.

Areas where vaccination rates are high are seeing fewer new cases than those with lower immunization levels, Fauci said. Daily U.S. vaccinations that exceeded 3 million at their peak earlier in the campaign have since tailed off. With cases on the rise, he didn’t rule out the possibility of additional mask mandates or other restrictions in coming weeks.

“Everything is on the table,” said Fauci, who didn’t go into specifics. He noted that the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that all children more than two years old should wear masks inside schools this fall, as well as all staff. That position goes beyond the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s recommendations.

“The CDC is not there yet,” Fauci said, noting that the agency will likely reassess its guidelines at the end of the summer.

Story by Robert Langreth, Bloomberg News