The COVID pandemic isn’t over yet, according to Dr. Anthony Fauci, who warned Sunday that Americans are at risk of death and suffering because public health is faltering as the virus continues to spread.
In an interview with NBC’s Meet the Press, the White House’s top medical advisor said between 300 and 400 people were still dying of the virus every day in the United States, and that the country was “certainly” still in a pandemic.
He also told the program that the uptake of the latest vaccine booster had been less than 15%.
“As a public health official, I don’t want to see anyone suffer and die from COVID,” Fauci said. “I don’t care if you’re a far-right Republican or a far-left Democrat, everybody deserves to have the safety of good public health and that’s not happening.”
He added: “I think the idea that forget it, this is over—it isn’t.”
In the week ending Nov. 23, the U.S. recorded more than 305,000 new cases of COVID-19.
Pandemic ‘not fully over yet’
The COVID-19 outbreak was declared a pandemic by the WHO in March 2020. According to Dr. Robert H. Shmerling, a rheumatologist and senior faculty editor at Harvard Health Publishing, defining the end of a pandemic is “not easy.”
“Some people have suggested a pandemic is over when everyone is behaving as though it is: no more precautions, restrictions, or changes in behavior compared with the period of time before these started,” he said in a blog post last month.
However, he said that if this was true, people growing weary or skeptical about the value of restrictions and guidance could “create the impression that the pandemic is over” even as significant numbers of infections and deaths continue.
“That seems to be where we are with COVID right now,” Shmerling said. “There’s a lot that’s still uncertain about the COVID-19 pandemic. Unfortunately, one thing seems clear: we can’t call it fully over yet.”
Earlier this year, the WHO said it wasn’t considering a declaration that the pandemic was over, Bloomberg reported, saying that “we are not there yet.”
At the beginning of the year, a top WHO official said even once the pandemic is declared over and COVID becomes an endemic disease, the virus will still pose a threat to society.
“Endemic does not mean ‘good,’ it just means ‘here forever,’” he explained.
Fauci, who is stepping down from his roles as the White House’s chief medical advisor and director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, on Tuesday gave his last COVID briefing, in which he touted “the importance of getting an updated booster vaccine” ahead of the holiday season and the colder months.
Just under 70% of Americans have completed their primary series of COVID vaccinations, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)—meaning they have had one dose of a single-dose immunization like the Janssen vaccine or two doses of a vaccine like those manufactured by Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna.
However, the CDC’s figures show that just 12.1% of people over the age of 5 in the U.S. have had the updated bivalent booster dose.
Pfizer and Moderna’s new boosters, which target Omicron subvariants including BA.4, BA.5 and BQ.1.1, were approved for use in the U.S. at the end of August.
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