Health

Dr. Fauci Says U.S. Is ‘Turning the Corner’ On Current COVID-19 Surge

Anthony Fauci, M.D., says the U.S. is “turning the corner” on the current COVID-19 surge—but not yet on the pandemic as a whole. Dr. Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, shared his take in an interview on This Week on Sunday, where he pointed to promising trends in the data as a reason to be optimistic—and the surges we’ve seen throughout the pandemic as a reason to remain cautious. 

The most recent data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) shows that the seven-day moving average of daily new COVID-19 hospitalizations decreased 14.9% from the previous week, while daily new cases fell by 13.3%. And both of those numbers are down by just over 30% since August, as anchor Jonathan Karl noted. He asked Dr. Fauci if those numbers indicate that it is “possible that we are finally beginning to turn the corner on this pandemic.” 

Dr. Fauci offered a more qualified statement in response: “We certainly are turning the corner on this particular surge,” he said. And while it’s “within our capability” to continue that progress, it’s important to keep the pandemic’s history of receding and recurring surges in mind, Dr. Fauci said. “We have experienced over now close to 20 months of surges that go up and then come down, and then go back up again,” he pointed out. 

Beyond that, vaccination rates are still disappointingly low in many areas of the country. Various public and private organizations (including schools, hospitals, and private companies) are now implementing vaccine mandates, and Dr. Fauci said these kinds of mandates could help significantly increase rates of vaccination in some populations. But it’s too soon to tell the extent of the effect that these mandates will have on overall vaccination rates. And considering how high the number of unvaccinated people in the U.S. currently remains—only 75.9% of the population over age 12 is vaccinated, per the CDC—we are far from in the clear, Dr. Fauci warned. 

“When you have 70 million people in the country who are eligible to be vaccinated, who are not yet vaccinated, that’s the danger zone right there,” Dr. Fauci said. If we want to see rates of infection and hospitalization continue to fall—and prevent another surge down the road—getting more people vaccinated is paramount, as Dr. Fauci and public health experts have repeatedly said. 

“It’s within our capability to make sure that that turnaround that we’re seeing—that very favorable and optimistic turnaround—continues to go down and doesn’t do what we’ve seen multiple times before, where it goes down and then it comes back up,” Dr. Fauci said. “The way to keep it down, to make that turnaround continue to go down, is to do what we mentioned: Get people vaccinated,” Dr. Fauci reiterated. 

The inflection point in this current surge comes as we hit yet another grim milestone in the pandemic. The country surpassed 700,000 COVID-19 deaths on Friday, the Associated Press reports, according to the Johns Hopkins University data tracker. As the AP notes, this means that the novel coronavirus has now resulted in more deaths in this country than the 1918 flu pandemic, which killed an estimated 675,000 people in the U.S., per the CDC

Dr. Fauci, reflecting on the staggering death toll, said that while a number of these deaths were “unavoidable,” many could have been prevented. “There were situations where we could have done better, and we can do better, and I think we’re living through that right now.” He continued, “When you say ‘Are some of those deaths avoidable?’ They certainly are. In fact, looking forward now, most of the deaths could be avoidable if we get people vaccinated.” 

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