Dr. Fauci Just Issued This Warning to All Americans—Even the Vaccinated
The top health official said the virus' trajectory could be about to change course.
Over two years after the pandemic began, the U.S. is still coping with COVID-19. Fortunately, the last two months have seen a drastic shift in its trajectory after reaching an all-time high in mid-January, with cases dropping 33 percent over the past two weeks alone, to a seven-day average of 29,905 as of March 20, according to data from The New York Times. But even as infections are trending in the right direction, chief White House COVID adviser Anthony Fauci, MD, is now warning Americans there could be yet another surprise ahead from the virus.
During an appearance on ABC's This Week on March 20, Fauci pointed out that the sustained decline in infections could end soon, as the BA.2 Omicron subvariant continues to spread—especially as more time has passed since many have received their last dose of vaccine. "We likely will see an uptick in cases as we've seen in the European countries, particularly the U.K., where they've had the same situation as we've had now," he warned. "They have BA.2. They have a relaxation of some restrictions such as indoor masking, and there's a waning of immunity."
Fauci also warned that the characteristics of the latest viral offshoot itself could make it likely a spike in infections will hit the U.S. "It has a degree of transmission advantage over the original Omicron, but not [a] multi-fold advantage. So, it's about 50 to 60 percent or so more transmissible, which means ultimately over time, it might take over as a dominant variant," he explained.
Despite the challenges posed by BA.2, Fauci still tempered his warning with a cautiously optimistic outlook on how any upcoming surge may be different. "When you look at the cases, they do not appear to be any more severe and they do not appear to evade immune responses either from vaccines or prior infections," he said.
Fauci wasn't the only expert to express concern that the latest subvariant could send cases back up in the U.S. During a March 20 appearance on Fox News Sunday, U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy, MD, cautioned that while he believes we are now better equipped the handle the virus, a jump in infections is still possible. "We should be prepared: COVID hasn't gone away," he urged. "Our focus should be on preparation, not on panic."
During an appearance on CBS's Face the Nation, former Food & Drug Administration (FDA) Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, MD, echoed similar concerns. While he agreed that cases might not amount to anything close to the peaks seen over the winter, the overall outcome would depend on the actions taken to slow the spread of the virus.
"As well as the lifting of mitigation, people are going out more, they're interacting more, and some declining immunity from people who are boosted a long time ago or infected a long time ago. We're relying on that immunity, that immunity isn't as pronounced right now, so we are going to see an increase in infection," he said. "I think this is going to be a real test of whether or not we're able to live some semblance of normalcy and not reach back to the kind of mitigation that we've relied on in the past…And so far right now, I don't know that we're taking all the steps we need to be taking to protect vulnerable people to weather this bump and potentially another surge heading into next fall."
When asked whether or not it was time to revive protective restrictions to prevent a surge, Fauci replied that they weren't necessary. But he did advocate for other measures that officials could take to protect against the virus in the future to make sure such precautions won't be needed again.
"The easiest way to prevent [a surge] is to continue to get people vaccinated. And for those who have been vaccinated, to continue to get them boosted, so that's really where we stand right now," he said.