WASHINGTON — America's top infectious disease expert said this week that the U.S. is no longer in a "full-blown explosive pandemic phase," while emphasizing that the COVID-19 pandemic at a global-scale will likely last for some time.
In an interview with the Washington Post on Wednesday, Dr. Anthony Fauci clarified comments he made during a Tuesday interview with PBS News in which he said the U.S. was "out of the pandemic phase." Fauci told the Post that the U.S. is now transitioning into a more "controlled endemicity," where subvariant cases, like those from BA.2 and BA.2.12.1, remain high but hospitalization levels do not match those from last fall's omicron surge.
“Right now we’re at a low enough level that I believe that we’re transitioning into endemicity. ... We’re not in the full-blown explosive pandemic phase. That does not mean that the pandemic is over,” Fauci told the Washington Post. “A pandemic means widespread infection throughout the world. ... In our country we’re transitioning into more of a controlled endemicity.”
According to data from the CDC, current COVID cases and hospitalization rates are slightly rising again, but deaths have continued on a downward trend. Moreover, the CDC now estimates that more than half of all Americans show signs of previous COVID infections.
Experts still stress that those previously infected should get vaccinated, but preliminary studies show that naturally-acquired antibodies offer some protection against serious illness or death from COVID.
“There’s the full-blown pandemic dynamic, the way we were months ago, where we were having 900,000 cases a day, tens of thousand of hospitalizations, three thousand deaths a day,” Fauci told the Post. “The deaths went from 3,000 down to 300.”
Nationwide, both federal and local officials seem to be reflecting this mentality of a gradual slow-down of the pandemic, with many states, counties and cities dropping indoor mask requirements.
More recently, a federal judge in Florida also struck down the federal mask mandate for travel on planes and other transportation, but the Justice Department has filed an appeal to overturn that decision.
In his Tuesday interview with PBS, Fauci stressed that COVID will not be completely eradicated given that many underdeveloped countries have yet to reach sustainable vaccination levels. But he added that transmission in the U.S. can be kept "very low" if the public is "intermittently" vaccinated, saying he does not know yet how often that would be.