Dr. Fauci Warns We Need to Do These 2 Things, Starting Now
The top health official gave recommendations on how to handle the virus going forward.
Over the course of the past two years, how we've responded to the COVID-19 pandemic have changed and shifted along with the threats presented at the time. Now, as cases slowly begin to rise again for the first time since the Omicron surge peaked in mid-January, many are questioning how officials should handle the virus going forward. And according to chief White House COVID adviser Anthony Fauci, MD, there are two major requirements we need to start following immediately. Read on to see what the top health official says will be important as we enter the next phase of the pandemic.
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Fauci says it's essential to follow COVID hospitalization data "really, really carefully."
During an interview with CNN on April 13, Fauci was asked how officials would be able to stay on top of COVID as increased home testings have led to an undercount in new infections. While he agreed that numbers were likely higher than suggested by collected data to some degree, he argued that it was essential to "follow the data really, really carefully," especially in terms of hospitalization rates following a spike in the virus.
"There will always be a lag in hospitalizations following an increase, a spike, or a surge…and that is why we've got to be all over following whether or not we have an increase in hospitalizations," Fauci suggested. "Many of our colleagues in different countries, particularly in the U.K., who have seen increases in cases go up dramatically, have not seen a substantial increase in hospitalizations [that] are related to people who are hospitalized because of COVID. There certainly are hospitalizations with COVID, but when you talk to their health authorities, they feel that the impact on hospitalizations is really dissociated a bit from what we saw, for example, with Delta, when the cases were much more in line with the hospitalizations."
Fauci also said that COVID guidelines going forward will always be "up to the individual," whether that's a region or a single person.
Fauci then described how future responses to the COVID will become much more granular than they were in the early days of the pandemic.
"The other thing that's important is that when you talk about guidelines from the CDC—which are not mandates, they're guidelines about what people should be doing—they're giving guidelines in the broad sense, but it's always up to the individual. And that means individual as a person, individual location, cities—such as the decision in Philadelphia—that ultimate decision is that at the local level," he clarified.
"The local level can be a city, a county, or a person who says, 'even though I'm in the green zone, I want to feel a little more protected because I'm either elderly, I'm frail, I have an underlying condition.' So people have to understand that the judgment call, with broad recommendation from the CDC, is still on an individual basis."
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Other officials have also advocated carefully watching COVID hospitalization numbers.
Fauci hasn't been the only top official who suggests that monitoring hospitalization data has taken on a new level of importance. During an appearance on the NBC's Today show on April 11, newly appointed White House COVID-19 response coordinator Ashish Jha, MD, also addressed the recent spike in cases, saying: "I'm not overly concerned right now. Case numbers are rising—BA.2—we were expecting this because we saw this in Europe a few weeks ago."
"But the good news is we're coming off still very low infection numbers," he continued. "Hospitalizations are the lowest they have been in the entire pandemic. So we've got to watch this very carefully, obviously—I never like to see infections rising. I think we've got to be careful, but I don't think this is a moment where we have to be excessively concerned."
Recent changes may make it harder for hospitalization data to follow in the future.
However, staying on top of where COVID is headed may not be a given. Some health experts have warned that inaccurate testing counts could make it harder to anticipate another surge of patients in the future.
"An effective public health response depends on high quality, real-time data," John Brownstein, MD, an epidemiologist at Boston Children's Hospital, told ABC News. "Underreporting, driven by changes in testing behavior, lack of public interest and severely underfunded local public health departments, create a perfect storm of misleading case counts and hospitalizations."
He also points out that such data could be harder to come by on a higher level after the Department of Health and Human Services (DDH) ended its requirement for hospitals to report vital COVID data, such as deaths, the number of ventilated patients, and information on staffing shortages, ABC News reports. "Hospitalization data is now considered a key defining metric for pandemic severity by CDC. At the same time, with massive gaps in data from hospitals and states, it's hard to peg these data as a gold standard by which policy decisions can be made," Brownstein warned.
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