Dr. Fauci Just Shared a Sobering Prediction About Ending the Pandemic

Here's what the COVID expert said about the future of containing the virus.

The COVID pandemic has ebbed and flowed throughout the last year and a half, with a number of surges including the winter holiday spike of 2020 and the rise of the Delta variant over the past few months. Thankfully, COVID case numbers have been dropping across the U.S. and vaccination rates have risen, giving many people hope once more that the pandemic is finally coming to an end. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), infections have declined by more than 11 percent in the last week, while vaccinations have risen by more than 30 percent during the same time period. Is the end in sight? Top White House COVID adviser Anthony Fauci, MD, says that sadly, this may not be enough to get rid of the coronavirus altogether.

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During an interview with Washington, D.C.'s ABC 7 News on Oct. 12, Fauci discussed and answered viewer questions about the pandemic, natural immunity, and vaccinations. According to Fauci, when looking at decreasing COVID numbers, we should be seeing it in terms of ending the pandemic, not of getting rid of the virus for good.

"I don't think we're going to eradicate this virus, at least certainly not in the near future," he explained. According to Fauci, the U.S. has only really ever eradicated one important virus: smallpox.

When asked by reporter Lindsey Mastis about whether or not the pandemic could end in 2022, Fauci said it really comes down to vaccinations. According to Fauci, the more people who get vaccinated, the sooner the pandemic can come to an end. "I believe we can control it and perhaps even come close to maybe even eliminating it if we're lucky and we get a lot of people vaccinated," he said. Based on the latest data from the CDC, 56.5 percent of the country's population has been fully vaccinated so far.

Despite positive declining numbers, there is still a ways to go with vaccinations. "I believe if you look at it right now, if you look at the cases, hospitalizations, and death, they're all on a downward slope," Fauci said. "We had surges that came down but then came back up again. So although we were very thinking positively that we turned the corner and are coming down, we still have about 65 to 68 million people in the country who are eligible to be vaccinated and who have not been vaccinated."

Fauci added, "There will always be cases that are coming up and down. I don't think we're going to all of a sudden see a disappearance of it. But we've got to get it out of the pandemic, or epidemic, phase for us. If we do that, we'll be able to do so many things that really are just, like, normal. But it's up to us."

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Fauci is not the only COVID adviser to give this kind of prediction. Scott Gottlieb, MD, the former head of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), told CNBC that he is looking at the end of the country's "pandemic phase," which is likely to conclude once vaccines are approved for kids, an antiviral pill is cleared by regulators, and the Delta variant has moved through the U.S. According to Gottlieb, Delta is expected to surge in the colder states of the Midwest and West as the fall and winter months roll in, but he expects that this variant will die down by Thanksgiving.

"I think by Thanksgiving, it's probably going to have run its course across the whole country," he said during a Sept. 26 interview with CNN. "On the back end of this Delta wave, I do think this is the last major surge of infection, barring something unexpected like a new variant coming along that pierces the immunity offered by vaccination or prior infection."

Similarly, Fauci said that the next few months will be key in ending the COVID pandemic in the U.S. during his interview with ABC News 7. "If we can get through the winter where you have indoors more than outdoors, we have the flu season, and a variety of other respiratory infections to complicate the situation—if we can through that and continue the slope coming down and stay down and get substantial more people vaccinated, I believe as we get into the coming year, we could be able to keep that number down," Fauci said.

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