As COVID-19 cases fall nationwide, some Americans are wondering when the U.S. might transition to a new approach of accepting the virus is here to stay and returning to a more normal lifestyle.
What You Need To Know
- As COVID-19 cases fall nationwide, some Americans are wondering when the U.S. might transition to a new approach of accepting the virus is here to stay and returning to a more normal lifestyle
- Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, stressed Wednesday that the conditions are not ripe yet for such a shift, but he described some of the indicators health officials will be analyzing
- Fauci said health officials will be using other respiratory viruses such as the flu and RSV as measuring sticks when looking at the level of COVID-19 hospitalizations and deaths
- Twenty-nine states are still seeing the number of cases climb, driven by the omicron variant, but in 20 other states, as well as Washington, D.C., infection numbers are falling
Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and President Joe Biden’s chief medical adviser, stressed Wednesday that the conditions are not ripe yet for such a shift, but he described some of the indicators health officials will be analyzing.
“Where we want to be is that sufficient control” of the virus, Fauci said during Wednesday’s White House COVID-19 Response Team news briefing.
Fauci explained that it’s unreasonable to expect COVID-19 will be completely or nearly eliminated like polio or the measles. He said health officials will be using other respiratory viruses, such as the flu and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), as measuring sticks when looking at the level of COVID-19 hospitalizations and deaths.
“We try our best to contain them (the other viruses), but they don't disrupt us with regard to challenging our hospital system, with regard to challenging the entire health care delivery system,” Fauci said. “That's where we want to be, and I believe that we will get there, hopefully sooner rather than later.”
Fauci said the level of immunity in communities will be key to exiting the pandemic stage.
“Either through infection plus boosting, either vaccine plus boosting, or just vaccine alone,” he said. “Those are the things that will hopefully get us to the point — when we have antivirals to be able to treat people who are at high risk — that we no longer are in a situation of threat, threat to our equanimity, threat to our economy, the threat to allow us to live a normal life.
“We believe we can get there because we have the tools, with vaccines, with boosts, with masks, with tests and with antivirals.”
The national seven-day average for new daily infections is 692,359, down 6% over the past week. New hospital admissions are also falling, down 8% to about 19,800 a day. However, deaths, which generally lag weeks behind spikes in infections, have increased 21% over the past week to 2,166 a day.
“When you have over 2,000 deaths, 150,000 hospitalizations and you have people who are now getting infected to the tune of somewhere around 700,000 a day, we're not there yet,” Fauci said.
Twenty-nine states are still seeing the number of cases climb, driven by the omicron variant. However, in 20 other states, as well as Washington, D.C., infection numbers are falling, in many cases precipitously. Health officials expect that phenomenon will be repeated in all states, although on different timelines.
When asked if he believes the omicron wave could be the last disruptive surge that hits the U.S. during the pandemic, Fauci said he believes the country is more likely to experience the best-case scenario that health officials are hoping for than the worst-case scenario they fear. But he added, “We don’t know.”
Fauci also discussed the need for universal coronavirus vaccines that would hold up better against future variants. He said while there are several promising candidates that are in or about to enter preclinical trials, such a vaccine is still years away from being available.
Fauci emphasized that people should not misinterpret talk of needing a pan-coronavirus vaccine as an indictment of the current vaccines.
“Our current vaccine regimens do provide strong protection, particularly when used with a booster, against severe coronavirus, disease and death,” Fauci said.
White House COVID-19 Response Coordinator Jeff Zients, meanwhile, announced the U.S. reached a few milestones this week. He said the federal government, as of Wednesday, has now shipped 400 million vaccine doses to 112 other countries, four times more than any other nation.
He also said 70% of eligible seniors and 50% of eligible adults have received their vaccine boosters.