• White House chief medical adviser Dr. Anthony Fauci had an uncharacteristically positive-sounding coronavirus update to share in recent days.
  • When asked if he thinks the worst of the coronavirus pandemic is behind us, Dr. Fauci said that it might be.
  • To date, more than 28.6 million people in the US have developed a reported coronavirus infection.

One year ago this week, I was on vacation in Charleston, South Carolina — still unwittingly enjoying the last days of the pre-COVID world when you could just show up to a restaurant for a meal, hop in an Uber without wearing a face mask, and enjoy a flight without worrying about the possibility of catching a virus that’s so far killed more than half a million people so far in the US. I had never heard of Dr. Anthony Fauci before, and I certainly had no idea what a coronavirus was. Nor did I have any way of realizing that we’d all soon be hanging on to each day’s coronavirus update, including new pronouncements about public health measures, face masks, COVID vaccine updates, and, of course, the number of new infections, hospitalizations, and coronavirus-related deaths amid a pandemic that’s now infected more than 28.6 million people in the US, according to the latest data from Johns Hopkins University.

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Up until a couple of weeks ago, the daily coronavirus numbers here where I live, in Memphis, were routinely depressing. Each day, at around 10 a.m., the local county health department blasts out the day’s totals across its social media accounts, which had tended to include several hundred new infections — between 200 and as many as 700 and up, from one day to the next. Now, however, the daily COVID infection totals have dropped to a little more than 100 or 200 over the last several days. And Dr. Fauci, the White House’s chief medical adviser, has said in recent days that, at least at the national level, this degree of improvement is no fluke.

Dr. Fauci has been, all things considered, a somewhat pessimistic voice of authority during the pandemic, at least as far as the US is concerned. Heck, here he is just a week ago saying the US coronavirus response was worse than almost every other country’s.

But now, he’s finally got some good news:

Maybe, just maybe, the worst of the pandemic is behind us.

He was asked this very question during an interview with Yahoo News a few days ago, and Dr. Fauci speculated that “it might be” (in terms of the worst being over). “I’m not absolutely, 100% certain,” he said. But “there’s a really good chance that we will do fine, at least in the immediate future.”

The main reason he was less than completely definitive with those statements has to do with the coronavirus variants that are increasingly showing up around the US — those are the more-transmissible strains of COVID-19 that represent the virus racing to mutate as millions of Americans get vaccinated each week.

According to Bloomberg’s vaccine tracker, so far more than 75.2 million coronavirus vaccine doses have been administered in the US. “We need to outrun the variants by getting people vaccinated as quickly as we possibly can,” Dr. Fauci said during his Yahoo News interview.

“Now’s the time to really put the pedal to the floor here and just say, ‘Let’s go get people vaccinated.’”

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Andy is a reporter in Memphis who also contributes to outlets like Fast Company and The Guardian. When he’s not writing about technology, he can be found hunched protectively over his burgeoning collection of vinyl, as well as nursing his Whovianism and bingeing on a variety of TV shows you probably don’t like.