Fauci warns towards complacency as Covid infections lower

Dr. Anthony Fauci warned Americans on Sunday to fight back a sense of Covid-19 complacency even as coronavirus infections decline and some scientists predict that herd immunity is just around the corner.

“The slope that comes down is really great – it’s very steep and it goes down very, very fast. But we’re still at a very high level,” Fauci, a top pandemic adviser to President Joe Biden, told NBC . Meet the press. “

Fauci said he didn’t want people to think “we’re out of the woods now” just because the surge in infections dropped sharply.

“We’re not. Because the baseline of daily infections is still very, very high,” said Fauci. “It’s not the 300,000 to 400,000 we had a while ago, but we really, really, really want to keep that baseline low before we start believing we’re out of the woods.”

The pandemic, which first struck the nation early last year, has entered a new phase as the pace of vaccinations increases and the number of new infections decreases, even as the US is close to hitting the grim milestone of 500,000 Covid- 19- stand. related deaths.

The 7-day moving average of new infections was 71,717 on Saturday. As a result, a CNBC analysis of the Johns Hopkins University data found less than half of the 146,034 new daily infections reported at the beginning of the month, also a 7-day average.

More than 497,000 people have died of the disease in the United States since Sunday.

Fauci’s comments to host Chuck Todd came in response to an opinion piece published Thursday in the Wall Street Journal by Dr. Martin Makary, a surgeon at Johns Hopkins University, who predicted the country will reach herd immunity in April.

Makary wrote that his prediction was based on data and science, as well as anecdotal evidence. He said that some medical experts privately agreed with his out-of-consensus view but warned him not to discuss it lest he inadvertently encourage the public to become complacent, not take precautionary measures, or not receive the vaccine.

“On the current path, I expect Covid will be largely gone by April, which will allow Americans to resume their normal lives,” wrote Makary, saying that current estimates of natural immunity have likely been low.

Fauci said he was “not so sure” that the recent decline in infections was due to herd immunity, or the phenomenon where a critical number of people become resistant to the virus as a result of previous exposure or vaccination.

“Certainly the number of infected people contributes to this. Also a certain contribution with vaccines, not much,” said Fauci. “I don’t think we have vaccinated enough people yet to achieve herd immunity. I think you see nature peaking and sinking.”

Dr. Scott Gottlieb, former head of the Food and Drug Administration, also spoke on Sunday, saying in an interview on CBS News’ Face the Nation that he expected the current decline in cases to continue.

Gottlieb said that if only 40% of the population have some form of immunity, the rate of infection can be slowed down significantly, a lower value than the 75% Fauci estimated to be the level for herd immunity.

In some parts of the country, Gottlieb added: “We just got that.”

“I think we should be optimistic. I think we will continue to see a drop in infection rates in the spring and summer,” he said.

The debate on the state and dynamics of the virus comes a year after the extended lockdowns and other preventive measures that stalled much of the economy, inflicting mental health trauma on a previously unknown number, and forcing families apart.

Biden said achieving herd immunity could be a difficult task by the end of next summer that would force parents to grapple with the idea of ​​starting another school year in pandemic conditions.

Even if the country contains the virus significantly, it is possible that some measures to protect against its spread may continue. Fauci told CNN on Sunday that even if the country gets a certain level of normalcy, Americans may wear masks to prevent the spread of Covid-19 over the next year.

Biden’s cautious approach is a reversal of the abundant and sometimes ruthless optimism of his predecessor, former President Donald Trump. The measured utterances of the Biden government have sparked criticism from the opposite direction. Some say the government is setting targets that are too low given encouraging data.

The increase in the number of people receiving vaccinations has generated limited optimism. About 1.7 million vaccines are administered daily, up from the White House target of 1.5 million per day. Public health experts said the rate could double by the end of the month if supply continues.

Despite these optimistic projections, major concerns remain about a number of new coronavirus mutations, some of which have been shown to be more transmissible than the dominant strain in the U.S. It is possible that mutant strains could prove resistant to the approved vaccines by experts, although experts have largely said they expect the current vaccines to work.

A strain of particular concern, first identified in the UK, doubles its presence in the US every 10 days, according to a study published earlier this month.

While the study found the strain circulating at low absolute levels, it helped model the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which predicted the strain known as B.1.1.7., The dominant strain in the US for the next month could be .

Dr. Michael Osterholm, former advisor to the Biden transition team, said Jan. 31 that B.1.1.7 is likely to spike in “the next six to 14 weeks”.

“And when we see what my 45 years in the trenches tell me, we will see something we have never seen in this country,” warned Osterholm.

The CDC has identified three mutant strains in the United States that “have particularly affected the world’s public health and health care leaders,” including B.1.1.7 and variations first identified in South Africa and Japan. The variant identified in Japan was found on travelers from Brazil.

Gottlieb said the variants presented “some risk” but that there was already “enough protective immunity that we are likely to see them.” [positive] Trends continue. “

The variations, he said, “will not be enough to reverse these trends at this point.”

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