It's too soon to declare victory over COVID-19, considering the variants that are spreading "quite efficiently," but as long as people continue to get their vaccines, the numbers of positive cases growing again in some states should not become a full-blown surge of disease, Dr. Anthony Fauci said Tuesday.
"Certainly there is an uptick of cases in multiple states," Fauci, the chief medical adviser for President Joe Biden and the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said on MSNBC's "Morning Joe," noting that in the past few weeks, the numbers have climbed back up to 50,000 to 60,000 a day after having plateaued at around 30,000 cases daily.
But the difference between what's going on now and last year's surges is that there are now vaccines and every day, 3 million to 4 million people are getting their COVID shots, he said.
"We have well over 50 to 60 million people who are vaccinated completely, about 100 million who are vaccinated at least partially, and every day it gets better and better," said Fauci. "The real question is the efficacy of the vaccine going to prevent that from going up the way we saw it in previous surges? I hope not. As long as we keep vaccinating people efficiently and effectively, I don't think that's going to happen."
That doesn't mean there won't be an increase in cases, said Fauci, but he thinks the vaccine will prevent a "real surge."
However, there is a wild card, in that people have "COVID fatigue" and want to get back to normal, he said.
"If you pull back on masking and avoiding congregant setting, you're really at a pretty big risk," said Fauci. "If we can just hang in there a bit longer, every day that we hang in there and don't just give in to getting away from all restrictions, every day we do better and better."
He also stressed that the disease is now affecting younger people, because more than 75% of people 65 and older have gotten at least one COVID shot.
But in time, younger people will also be equally protected, but as for now, even though a younger patient can be seriously ill, the hospitalization rate will be less for them than for older patients, Fauci continued.
He also spoke about states like Texas, where mandates have dropped but so have case numbers, and said that could be confusing because often, it takes a few weeks for effects from actions to show up in cases
"I hope they continue to tick down. If they do, that would be great," he said. "But there's always the concern when you pull back on methods, particularly things like indoor dining and bars that are crowded, you can see a delay and all of a sudden tick right back up. We've been fooled before when in situations where people begin to open back up, nothing happens, and all of a sudden days later, things start exploding on you. We've got to be careful we don't ly judge that."
Fauci also said Tuesday he thinks the nation's schools should be opened as quickly as possible, and kept open, but that should be done through CDC guidelines.
"You want to balance with the negative effect of keeping kids out of school with the potential effect of illness of keeping them out of school," said Fauci. "Some really good news, and this is important, is that a recent study showed that kids from 12 to 15 years, the vaccination was 100% effective in protecting them. That's going to be huge."
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