Even as the coronavirus infection rate continues to drop across most parts of the country, Dr. Anthony Fauci during an interview with CNN this week cautioned that the US isn’t entirely out of the woods just yet. Especially with more contagious variants from the UK and South Africa already in the US, not to mention dozens of states easing up on COVID restrictions, Fauci effectively said that it’s far too early to return to life exactly as it was before the pandemic struck.
Fauci’s remarks were made a year to the day since the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the coronavirus a global pandemic, a grim anniversary that prompted Fauci to reflect back on what has been an incredibly challenging year for all Americans and the world at large.
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Fauci said one of the more surprising things to him was the “extraordinary capability” of COVID-19 to do things that health experts didn’t anticipate. From strict lockdown measures to the emergence of long-COVID, it’s fair to say that the havoc wreaked across the globe by the coronavirus was far more severe than most people could have anticipated at this time last year.
“If you had turned the clock back a year, and when we had the decision of shutting down travel from Europe, which was a year ago tomorrow on the 11th of March, I never would have imagined— even though I’ve been through multiple outbreaks of different diseases — the thought that you would have 525,000 people in America to have died and about 28 million infections in this country would have really been unimaginable,” Fauci said.
“This virus is a very formidable enemy,” Fauci went on to say. “Things are going much better in the right direction, particularly because of the scientific advances that allowed us to have now multiple, highly efficacious vaccines, but we’re not out of the woods yet even though we really want to be and we’re going in that direction. But if you look now, even every day, although the infections are coming down, it’s kind of plateauing a bit which is giving a little anxiety there. We hope that it continues to come down, but the deflection of the curve that was sharply going down is now starting to plateau a bit. So we have to keep an eye out on it. That doesn’t mean, you know, get very discouraged about it, keep going in the right direction, keep making step-by-step towards some form of normality, but it’s gotta be slow and prudent.”
When asked how we’ll know when the US has passed the threat of a new coronavirus surge, Fauci said it’s important for the daily infection rate to continue to go down day by day. Fauci also emphasized the importance of expanding the ongoing vaccination effort in the US.
Incidentally, the infection rate in the US has dropped by 16% over the last two weeks and is down about 50% over the last six weeks.
Still, with the US not at herd immunity just yet, Fauci cautioned that it’s important not to get complacent.
“You never can put your guard down completely, which is the reason why, although everyone wants to get back to normal now, including myself and my family, but the fact is when you look at this virus and what it’s done, you’ve got to be very careful and pull back in a very measured way and not just turn the switch on and off,” Fauci explained.
“I think probably as we get into the spring and very early summer, we’ll have enough vaccine to vaccinate everybody by the end of May. And then we’ve got the logistic challenge of getting into the arms of individuals. Once you get a substantial proportion of the population vaccinated, that is a very, very strong defense against there being another surge,” Fauci added.
The good news is that Moderna, Pfizer, and Johnson & Johnson are all planning to significantly boost vaccine dose shipments this month. On a related note, a handful of states have already started expanding vaccine eligibility as a result.
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