Dr. Anthony Fauci walked back his comment that the US was no longer in the “pandemic phase” of COVID-19 — the latest jumbled messaging from President Biden’s chief medical adviser on the coronavirus.
Biden administration officials and Fauci were scrambling Wednesday to emphasize that the country is still in the midst of a pandemic and that emergency measures are still needed after Fauci told PBS the precise opposite.
“Here we are. It’s the end of April. It’s the spring of 2022. How close are we to the end of the pandemic?” Judy Woodruff of “PBS NewsHour” asked Fauci Tuesday.
“We are certainly, right now, in this country out of the pandemic phase,” Fauci replied. “Namely, we don’t have 900,000 new infections a day and tens and tens and tens of thousands of hospitalizations and thousands of deaths. We are at a low level right now.
“So, if you’re saying, are we out of the pandemic phase in this country, we are,” he added.
A day later, after his comments made headlines worldwide, Fauci was singing a different tune. “We are in a different moment of the pandemic,” Fauci told the Associated Press Wednesday. The US has “decelerated and transitioned into more of a controlled phase” after a winter surge, he added.
“By no means does that mean the pandemic is over,” Fauci said in his 180-degree turnabout.
He told the Washington Post Wednesday: “The world is still in a pandemic. There’s no doubt about that. Don’t anybody get any misinterpretation of that.”
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki fielded a question during her daily press briefing over why emergency measures are still needed if the “pandemic phase” is over.
“Well, what Dr. Fauci was saying is that we are in a different phase of this pandemic, and that’s absolutely true,” Psaki said, adding that the level of hospitalizations and deaths has come down.
“We also know COVID isn’t over and the pandemic isn’t over,” she said.
People are still getting sick from COVID and “we have measures that we should all continue to take to protect ourselves,” Psaki said.
It’s not the first time the adviser has made a declaration or suggestion only to walk it back hours later.
Late last year, he suggested a booster shot would be needed for someone to be “fully vaccinated,” then said days later the extra dose wouldn’t be necessary to get to that point.
He also seemed to advocate for a vaccine requirement on domestic flights, but then said people shouldn’t expect a federal mandate requiring passengers to get jabbed.
Fauci, 81, decided to skip the White House Correspondents’ Association dinner on Saturday due to coronavirus concerns. The decision, first reported by CNN, came even though President Biden himself plans to attend.
Fauci had attended a Gridiron Club dinner on April 2, where few guests were masked. Dozens in attendance later tested positive for the virus.
Earlier this month, Fauci indicated his support for individual Americans making their own medical risk assessments when it comes to COVID-19.
“This is not going to be eradicated, and it’s not going to be eliminated,” he told ABC’s “This Week.” “And what’s going to happen is that we’re going to see that each individual is going to have to make their calculation of the amount of risk that they want to take.”
Fauci’s hopeful rhetoric was in stark contrast to the dire warnings he issued at the start of the pandemic, urging Americans to follow social distancing and masking guidelines.
However, the nation’s leading infectious diseases expert still recently slammed a Florida federal judge’s decision to strike down the Biden administration’s extension of a policy that required masks on public transportation.
“The CDC has the capability, through a large number of trained epidemiologists, scientists, to be able to make projections and make recommendations,” he said to CBS News. “Far more than a judge with no experience in public health.”
Fauci’s comments come as the US experiences a small uptick in positive COVID-19 infections driven by the BA.2 subvariant of the virus. In DC, dozens of lawmakers, journalists, administration officials tested positive this month after attending various dinners and events.
Earlier this month though, Fauci said the variant did not “appear to be associated with an increase in hospitalizations and severe disease.”
With Post wires