Fauci says US ‘out of the pandemic phase’

If you’re looking for good news these days, Dr. Anthony Fauci might have some to offer: The United States, he believes, is emerging from the pandemic phase, as infection rates trend lower and restrictions are lifted.

Fauci, the public face of the nation’s response to COVID-19 across two presidential administrations, told PBS News Hour on Tuesday that while the virus continues to spread, infection rates and severe outcomes are far under their peak last year.

“We are certainly, right now in this country, out of the pandemic phase,” Fauci said. “Namely, we don’t have 900,000 new infections a day and tens of thousands of hospitalizations, and thousands of deaths. We are at a low level right now.”

Fauci’s comments come amid a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimating that three out of every four U.S. children have been infected with the coronavirus and more than half of all Americans had signs of previous infections.

“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 U.S. population that has some degree of immunity that’s residual, either residual from prior infection, or hopefully people who are getting vaccinated and boosted,” Fauci added.

Reported cases surged in December and January, then fell almost as dramatically as they had risen. But daily case counts have been trending up again in recent weeks, reaching several members of Congress and Vice President Kamala Harris. Traditional case metrics may be less accurate given the rising popularity of self-testing, but officials do think recent increases reflect a true rise in infections.

In addition to vaccines easing the strain on the nation’s hospital system, Fauci touted antiviral treatments that alleviate symptoms like Pfizer’s Paxlovid, which the Biden administration is taking steps to expand. The White House said Tuesday it is stepping up outreach to doctors, letting them know they shouldn’t think twice about prescribing the pill to eligible patients.

But Fauci was less enthusiastic about the broader picture: “If you look at the global situation, there’s no doubt this pandemic is still ongoing,” he said, cautioning that the virus won’t be eradicated and that regular booster shots will be needed to keep levels low.

Currently, the U.S. offers a booster dose starting at age 12, but Pfizer and BioNTech this week asked the Food and Drug Administration to allow healthy elementary-age kids to also get one — about six months after their last shot.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Alejandro Alvarez

Alejandro Alvarez joined WTOP as a digital reporter and editor in June 2018. He is a writer and photojournalist focusing on politics, political activism and national affairs, with recent multimedia contributions to Reuters, MSNBC and PBS.

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