Credit…Ashley Landis/Associated Press

The rise in new coronavirus cases in the United States in recent days is concerning, Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, said Sunday. But he hinted that the rise was not yet alarming and that officials were watching it “very, very closely”.

Nationwide, more than 30,700 new cases of the virus are being reported each day, on average, a 2% increase from two weeks ago, according to a New York Times database. But some regions and cities, including New York and Washington, DC, are seeing larger increases, though their average number of new cases remains well below peaks during the recent winter surge. In New York, cases have increased by nearly 50% in the past two weeks, and several officials and Broadway stars have recently tested positive.

Several lawmakers and Biden administration officials in Washington have also recently tested positive. On Sunday, Rep. Jackie Speier of California announced on Twitter that she had also tested positive and had mild symptoms. “I am grateful to be vaccinated and to have received a double booster,” she added.

This increase is not surprising, given the spread of the highly transmissible subvariant of Omicron known as BA.2 and the relaxation of many public health measures, such as mask mandates, across the country, Dr. Fauci said on ABC’s “This Week.”

“It’s not unexpected – that you’re going to see a slight increase when you remove the mitigation methods,” he said.

But, he noted, most parts of the country have low community levels of Covid-19according to calculations made by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention which are designed to assess the number of new cases in a community and the pressure on its hospitals.

Dr Fauci said he hoped the country would not see a sharp increase in hospitalizations or deaths, which are lagging behind new cases and continuing to decline nationwide.

“If we start to see a slight increase, especially in hospitalizations, we may have to go back to being more careful and using more masks indoors,” he said.

In the meantime, Dr Fauci encouraged all eligible Americans to get vaccinated and boosted and expressed hope that Congress would soon pass a $10 billion Covid relief bill.

Congress adjourned for a two-week recess last week without voting on the package, which would provide more funding for treatments, tests and vaccines.

“We need this Covid funding,” Jen Psaki, the White House press secretary, said on “Fox News Sunday.” “And it’s really a huge disappointment to us that Congress has gone two weeks without passing this into law.”

A small wave of coronavirus infections has swept through the halls of Washington over the past week. Dozens of people have tested positive, including several administration officials and members of Congress, after attending the Gridiron Club and Foundation’s annual dinner on April 2.

President Biden did not attend the dinner, but his sister, who did, tested positive; Mr Biden appeared, without a mask, at several public events last week, raising concerns about whether he could have contracted the virus.

On Sunday, Dr. Fauci defended the procedures put in place to protect the president.

“He’s fully vaccinated,” Dr. Fauci said. “He’s double-boosted, and most of the time people who come near him have to be tested. So we think the protocol is a reasonable protocol.

Dr Fauci stressed that the severity of coronavirus infections should not be ignored and could still lead to significant illness and a long duration of Covid, even if they do not lead to hospitalization. But, he said, people have to make their own decisions about what risks they are willing to take.

“It’s not going to be eradicated, and it’s not going to be eliminated,” he said. “And what’s going to happen is we’re going to see that each individual will have to calculate the level of risk they want to take by going to indoor dinners and going to functions.”