Dr. Anthony Fauci expressed optimism about the state of the pandemic in the U.S. this week.
“We are certainly right now in this country out of the pandemic phase,” Fauci, the White House’s chief medical adviser and director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told “PBS NewsHour” on Tuesday.
Fauci also told The Washington Post on Wednesday that the U.S. had entered the “control” stage of the pandemic, as the coronavirus is causing far lower levels of hospitalizations and deaths than during the winter surge of the omicron variant. But he later clarified to NPR that he thinks the U.S. has passed the “acute component of the pandemic phase.”
“We are now transitioning — not there yet, but transitioning — to more of an endemicity, where the level of infection is low enough that people are starting to learn how to live with the virus, still protecting themselves by vaccination, by the availability of antivirals, by testing,” Fauci said.
Fauci has previously described five phases of the pandemic. The first, a full-blown pandemic, is where the U.S. spent most of the last two years. The second is deceleration, and the third is control, which indicates that the virus is becoming endemic in the population.
After that would come elimination and eradication, although the virus will probably never be eradicated, Fauci told PBS.
Fauci, who is President Joe Biden’s top Covid adviser, told The Post that entering a new phase doesn’t mean the entire pandemic is over.
“The world is still in a pandemic. There’s no doubt about that. Don’t anybody get any misinterpretation of that. We are still experiencing a pandemic,” he said.
Fauci, 81, decided not to attend this weekend’s White House Correspondents’ Dinner because of concerns about his own Covid risk.
The U.S. is recording around 51,000 Covid cases and just under 400 deaths a day on average, according to NBC News’ tally. But the case average has risen by 49 percent in the last two weeks, even as infections go undercounted because of the common use of at-home tests.
Still, many people in the U.S. have some form of immunity that should protect them from severe disease, Fauci said.
“If you add up the people who’ve been infected plus the people who’ve been vaccinated and hopefully boosted, you have a rather substantial proportion of the United States population that has some degree of immunity that’s residual,” he told PBS.
A report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Monday found that 58 percent of the U.S. had evidence of previous coronavirus infections as of February, based on tens of thousands of blood samples. Sixty-six percent of the country has been fully vaccinated, and 46 percent of the population has had booster shots, according to the CDC.
Globally, there are around 674,000 average Covid cases per day, although worldwide cases have declined by 35 percent in the last two weeks, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. The World Health Organization recorded its lowest weekly global death total since March 2020 last week, at just over 15,000.
However, WHO officials said in a briefing Monday that many more Covid deaths could still be prevented. Around 40 percent of the world population has not been fully vaccinated, according to the Our World in Data project of the Global Change Data Lab, affiliated with the University of Oxford.
“We’re in a different phase of this pandemic, certainly, but we are still very much in the middle of this pandemic,” said Maria Van Kerkhove, the WHO’s technical lead on Covid.
The risk of new, dangerous variants persists, WHO leaders said. Insufficient testing and surveillance could make it difficult to spot new variants, they added.
“As many countries reduce testing, WHO is receiving less and less information about transmission and sequencing,” WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said. “This makes us increasingly blind to patterns of transmission and evolution, but this virus won’t go away just because countries stopped looking for it. It’s still spreading, it’s still changing, and it’s still killing. The threat of a dangerous new variant remains very real.”