As mask mandates and vaccine requirements continue to disappear across the U.S., it may feel like the worst of the coronavirus pandemic is already behind us. In fact, many people appear hopeful for a COVID-free summer, as they plan upcoming vacations and holiday parties. Even some of the nation’s top COVID advisers have shed some positive light on the country’s progress. Anthony Fauci, MD, the White House’s chief medical adviser and director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), recently declared that the U.S. has moved away from the full-blown, explosive pandemic phase—giving people yet another reason to celebrate.
But this doesn’t negate all the devastation the coronavirus has already caused and continues to cause in the U.S. Currently, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that cases and hospitalization are both rising at a weekly rate of more than 30 and 17 percent, respectively. And on May 12, President Joe Biden announced that the country is approaching a tragic milestone: one million lives lost due to the pandemic. According to the CDC, there has been a total of 996,653 COVID deaths reported in the U.S. so far.
“This is a once-unfathomable number, one million lives lost,” Fauci said during a May 12 interview on NewsHour, a nightly newscast from PBS. “I mean, the idea of one million deaths in an outbreak, that is historic in nature. We have had nothing like this in well over 104 years.”
As a result, Fauci is warning all Americans to continue to stay alert as the “pandemic is not over.” According to the infectious disease expert, now is not the time to let our guard down and forget the important tools we need to continue to rely on—namely, COVID vaccines.
“One of the parts about it that adds to the tragedy is that many of those deaths were avoidable, avoidable if people had been vaccinated,” Fauci told NewsHour host Amna Nawaz. “It’s estimated that, if people had been vaccinated to a much greater extent right now, that vaccines would have avoided at least a quarter of those deaths, namely about 250,000.”
But it’s not just initial COVID vaccinations that the infectious disease expert is pushing. In a separate May 12 interview on NewsNation’s Rush Hour, Fauci stressed the importance of boosters for those who have already gotten their initial vaccine shots. “If you’ve gotten the mRNA vaccine—that’s two doses—everybody should get the third-dose boost. That’s it. Everybody with no exceptions there,” he said.
In terms of a second booster, Fauci is advising everyone eligible for this dose to get it as well. According to the CDC, people 50 years or older and those moderately to severely immunocompromised can get another booster four months after the first. “I would recommend that if people are in those categories, they do get boosted [again],” Fauci said.
But if everyone does not get up-to-date on their shots, we could be headed back to full-blown pandemic phase, according to Fauci. This would be “where we’re having 900,000 cases a day, 10,000 hospitalizations a day, and 3,000 deaths per day,” he said—which is not what is happening in the U.S. right now. According to the CDC, there is currently a daily average of around 87,000 cases, 2,600 hospitalizations, and 200 deaths.
“But with the resurgence of cases, we could be heading in that direction. And that’s the reason why we can’t let our guard down,” Fauci said on NewsHour. The infectious disease expert also warned that there is a likelihood that we could end up seeing another COVID surge in the fall and winter of 2022.
“So we’ve got to be prepared. And we’ve got to be prepared with vaccinations, with boosters … that’s what I mean when we say we can’t leave our guard down. Even though, right at this moment, we’re not in the so-called fulminant phase of the outbreak, we are still in the middle of the pandemic,” he said. “There are so many things that we can and should do to make sure that this does not go on.”
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