Fauci warns of complacency as Covid infections decline, warns daily case level remains high

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Dr Anthony Fauci on Sunday warned Americans to guard against a feeling of complacency with Covid-19 even as coronavirus infections plummet and some scientists predict herd immunity is imminent.

“The slope going down is really great – it’s very steep and it’s going down very, very quickly. But we’re still at a very high level,” Fauci, a senior pandemic advisor to President Joe Biden, said on NBC. Meet the press. “

Fauci said he didn’t want people to think that just because the slope of infections was down sharply that “we are now out of the woods.”

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

The pandemic that first hit the country early last year has entered a new phase, as the pace of vaccinations accelerates and the number of new infections declines even as the United States is about to take the dark milestone of 500,000 Covid-19- related deaths.

The 7-day moving average of new infections was 71,717 on Saturday, according to a TBEN analysis of data from Johns Hopkins University, less than half of the 146,034 new daily infections reported at the start of the month, also a 7-day average.

More than 497,000 people in the United States died from the disease on 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 Johns Hopkins University surgeon, who predicted the country would reach l collective immunity in April.

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Makary wrote that his prediction was based on data and science as well as anecdotal evidence. He said that in private, some medical experts agreed with his outside consensus view, but cautioned him against discussing it for fear of inadvertently encouraging members of the public to becoming complacent, not taking precautions, or refusing to receive the vaccine.

“On the current trajectory, I predict that Covid will be all but gone by April, allowing Americans to resume normal lives,” Makary wrote, saying current estimates of natural immunity were likely low.

Fauci said it was “not so sure” that the recent drop in infections can be attributed to herd immunity or to the phenomenon in which a critical number of individuals become resistant to the virus following exposure. or a previous vaccination.

“Certainly the number of people who have been infected contributes to that. Plus, some contribution with vaccines, not a lot,” Fauci said. “I don’t think we’ve vaccinated enough people yet to get the herd immunity. I think you see the natural peak and the drop.”

Dr Scott Gottlieb, the former chief of the Food and Drug Administration, also weighed in on Sunday, saying in an interview with TBEN News’s “Face the Nation” that he expected the current decline in cases to continue. .

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

In some parts of the country, Gottlieb added, “that’s what we have now.”

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“We should be optimistic, in my opinion. I think we will continue to see infection rates decline in the spring and summer,” he said.

The debate over the state and momentum of the virus comes a year after extended lockdowns and other preventative measures that shut down much of the economy, inflicted untold numbers of mental health trauma and forced them families to separate.

Biden said obtaining herd immunity by the end of next summer could be a difficult task, forcing parents to grapple with the idea of ​​starting another school year under pandemic conditions .

Even though the country significantly contains the virus, some measures to protect against its spread may continue. Fauci said on TBEN on Sunday that Americans may wear masks to prevent the spread of Covid-19 next year, even as the country reaches some degree of normalcy.

Biden’s cautious approach is a reversal of the abundant and sometimes reckless optimism offered by his predecessor, former President Donald Trump. The Biden administration’s measured remarks have inspired criticism in the opposite direction, with some saying the administration is setting targets too low in the face of encouraging data.

There was limited optimism about the increase in the number of people vaccinated. About 1.7 million vaccines are given each day, against the White House target of 1.5 million per day. Public health experts have said that rate could double by the end of the month, if the supply persists.

Despite these optimistic projections, 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 will prove resistant to vaccines that have been approved by regulators, although experts have widely said they expect current vaccines to work.

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A particularly disturbing strain, first identified in the UK, is doubling its presence in the US every 10 days, according to a study published earlier this month.

Although the study found that the strain circulated at low absolute levels, it supported modeling produced by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention which predicted that the strain, known as B.1.1.7., Could to be the dominant strain in the United States next month. .

Dr Michael Osterholm, former advisor to Biden’s transition team, said on Jan.31 that B.1.1.7 was likely to lead to a flare in the “next six to 14 weeks.”

“And, if we see that happening, what my 45 years in the trenches tell me we will, we’re going to see something like we haven’t seen in this country yet,” Osterholm warned.

The CDC has identified three mutant strains in the United States that “have been of particular concern to world leaders in public health and health to date” including B.1.1.7 and variations first identified in Africa South and Japan. The variant identified in Japan was found in travelers from Brazil.

Gottlieb said the variants posed “some risk” but there was already “enough protective immunity for us to see them.” [positive] trends continue. “

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

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