Dr. Fauci Says This Is One of the Worst Things You Could Do Right Now

The top infectious disease expert warns that this kind of behavior could be dangerous.

Health officials are finally seeing COVID cases in the United States decline after the latest surge of cases from the holiday season began to taper off in early January. But the downward trend may be lulling some people into a dangerous pattern of thinking. That's why Anthony Fauci, MD, warned on CNN on Feb. 16 that getting complacent and losing focus of basic health measures is one of the worst things you could do right now. Read on to see why the top infectious disease expert is issuing this warning, and for more on how you can keep yourself safe, check out Dr. Fauci Just Said This Is the Only Safe Way to Eat at a Restaurant.

Fauci cautions not to "get complacent" because of recent good news.

Man Putting On Face Mask In The City To Prevent Getting Coronavirus, COVID-19
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While discussing the recent significant decrease in the number of daily new cases in the U.S., Fauci warned that we still face a formidable fight before we can declare the pandemic truly over. "We've just got to be careful about getting too excited about that because we do have the challenge of variants," he told CNN's Jim Sciutto. "One of the things that we need to make sure we do is we don't get complacent when we see those numbers go down." And for insight into how numbers are where you live, find out How Much COVID Is Spreading in Your State.

Sticking to basic health measures and getting vaccinated are vital.

coronavirus outbreak - woman wash hands with surgical mask .
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Fauci went on to acknowledge that the pandemic had taken its toll on the population's patience and confidence, but also emphasized that it was important to see basic precautions through to the end. "We've got to continue with the public health measures," he said. "As much as, you know, we've been doing it for a long time and people are fatigued with it, we've got to continue until we get it so low that it's no longer a threat."

But the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) director was also confident that a combination of these health measures and our latest weapon, the vaccine, would eventually help bring case counts down to those low levels. "Simultaneous with that downward trajectory are more and more people getting vaccinated," Fauci told CNN. "Those two things together I hope are going to get us to the point where we're going to keep going in the right direction."

But there is one thing that could get in the way. "We have to keep our eye on the variants, mainly the mutations," he said. "But the good news is that the one that's the more dominant—the U.K. variant, the [B.1.1.7]—that the model tells us will be probably dominant in our own country by the end of March is pretty well protected by the vaccines we're using." And for more on the next vaccine that could come out, check out Who Should Wait for the Johnson & Johnson Vaccine, Experts Say.

Other experts cautioned another surge could be looming.

Male and female doctors discussing while standing in ICU. Healthcare workers are protective workwear. They are at hospital.
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Fauci isn't alone in warning that these new strains create the potential for yet another surge of infections across the U.S. "I think we should be assuming that the next wave of case growth, to the extent that we have it, is going to be with B.1.1.7, and that's something that I think everybody has to be even more cautious about," Andy Slavitt, senior advisor for the White House's COVID-19 response team, said during an interview with MSNBC's Hallie Jackson on Feb. 15. "It's nice to see the numbers of cases drop, but it could be misleading."

Slavitt cautioned: "I don't think we are anywhere close [to] out of the woods. I don't expect that we are going to be seeing just smooth sailing from here. It would be such a shame to take our foot off the gas too early." And for more COVID news delivered right to your inbox, sign up for our daily newsletter.

Despite the drop in cases, numbers are still relatively high.

A group of three young people wearing face masks and winter coats stand in a line.
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Fauci's concerns were also echoed by colleagues who warned that while the drop in COVID numbers was significant, they remained staggeringly high. "The cases are more than two-and-a-half-fold times what we saw over the summer," Rochelle Walensky, MD, director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), pointed out during an appearance on NBC's Meet the Press on Feb. 14. "It's encouraging to see these trends coming down but they're coming down from an extraordinarily high place."

And in another interview on the same day, Walensky also brought up her concerns over the contagious new strains of the virus that are spreading across the U.S., with the U.K. variant alone constituting 1,173 cases across 40 states as of Feb. 16. "We are nowhere out of the woods," she cautioned during an interview with CBS's Face the Nation on Feb. 14. "If we relax these mitigation strategies with increasing transmissible variants out there, we could be in a much more difficult spot. So what I would say is now is the time to not let up our guard. Now is the time to double down." And for more on where things are taking a turn for the worse, check out COVID Cases Are Starting to Rise Again in These 3 States.

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Zachary Mack
Zachary covers beer, wine, food, spirits, and travel. He's the owner of Alphabet City Beer Co. in New York City and is a Certified Cicerone. Read more
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