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Dr. Anthony Fauci, the chief medical advisor to the President and the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, hasn't taken a day off in 20 months, so he, like you, wishes this coronavirus pandemic was over now. But it isn't. On the contrary, cases are rising in Colorado and Alaska, despite a nationwide decline, and the holidays are coming up, threatening a "fifth wave." With this in mind, Fauci spoke with Lindsey Mastis on the Coronavirus Alert Desk out of Washington D.C. Read on for 8 life-saving pieces of advice—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had COVID.
Dr. Fauci Said Here's When We Could Return to Normal
When will the end of the pandemic be? Dr. Fauci said that's the "right terminology. 'End of it as a pandemic.' If you look right now at the cases, the hospitalizations and death, they are on a down slope. We've had surges that came down, but then came back up again. So although we're very, thinking positively now that would turn the corner and coming down, we still have about 65, 68 million people in the country who are eligible to be vaccinated who have not been vaccinated. It's going to be very important to really get the overwhelming majority of people vaccinated if you want to see that curve continue to come down and stay down."
"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 get through that and continue the slope coming down and stay down and get a substantial, more people vaccinated, I believe as we get into the coming year, we could be able to keep that number down," he continued. "The critical issue was get the number down, but keep it down. If we do that, we would be out of the pandemic phase. I don't think we're going to eradicate this virus. At least certainly not in the near future. We've only really eradicated one important virus in that smallpox. 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, but we want to get good control. There will always be cases that are coming up. And I don't think you're gonna all of a sudden see 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, if we can, but it's up to us. It's within our power. If we can get the people vaccinated and do mitigation for those who are not vaccinated and hopefully get them to be vaccinated, then I think we're going to get to where we want to be. Hopefully sooner, rather than later."
Dr. Fauci Said We Have to Get Out of the "Pandemic Phase"
"You've got to get out of the pandemic phase right now," he said. "We are in a pandemic phase. We have 95,000 infections a day. We have about 7,400 hospitalizations and about 1,400 deaths per day. That's the pandemic phase. We've got to get much, much lower than that. When you get out of that, the level at which it becomes endemic is critical. You want it endemic at a very, very low level, who knows it's not going to completely disappear. We're not going to eradicate it. At least not in the foreseeable future. You want very, very good control. That's when you say it's endemic, but you want control at a very, very low level where it would be an unusual situation where people get infected. I don't think you're going to have, at least not soon a situation when nobody's getting infected. I think that would be too much to ask for it, particularly since this is a global pandemic and you will to have people who will be infecting other people during travel in and out of the country. But hopefully that will be reasonably soon. I can't give you a date. Everybody wants a date. There's no date. We've just got to do our best to do everything we can to get it under control. And we'll know when we get there, but it's very difficult to predict the timeframe."
Dr. Fauci Shared This Holiday Guidance
Compared to last holiday season's surge, "we have something going for us that would kind of mitigate against that. And that is a vaccine. You know, we've done well with vaccines, but we can do—we have now about 50%, 56% of the population has completely been fully vaccinated, about 65% of the entire population. As we see the least one dose, the elderly about 85% of those who are greater than 65 years old are fully vaccinated. And about 95% of those who are greater than 65, have received at least one dose. So it's a very different situation compared to last year, when you're talking about vaccinations. Having said that we can do even better by getting the unvaccinated people vaccinated so we can not only prevent another surge. So you never want to get ahead of yourself and you never want to get overconfident, but I think we are going in the right direction. As I mentioned, that infections, hospitalizations and deaths are down over the past few weeks to a month. That's good news. That's good news. So I hope that that will continue as we get into the holidays and will allow us particularly the vaccinated individuals to be able to have a safe and happy holiday with their family and what their friends."
Dr. Fauci Said This is How to Spend the Holidays Together Safely
"I'm vaccinated," said Dr. Fauci. "My wife is vaccinated and my three adult daughters have been vaccinated. So we fully intend to spend the Christmas holidays together and enjoy it as a family. That wasn't the case last year, we didn't have vaccines available. So particularly when you're dealing with family and you're dealing with people who, you know, I mean, people who are close to you that are members of an extended family or friends who, you know, have vaccinated. You can have an enjoyable season indoors with them, for the holidays, for Christmas and for Thanksgiving. It's the situation that you're looking for is you want to make sure that we don't have so many people who are unprotected and un-vaccinated, and that's the reason why we reach out to the people who are not vaccinated and, and, and try and convince them food, trusted messengers, people who they can trust, why it's important for their own health, for that of their family. And really secondarily for the safety of the entire community. Again, the more people that get vaccinated, the more likely you will have a very safe holiday."
Dr. Fauci Would Vaccinate His Young Kids, if He Had Them
Regarding vaccinating kids, Dr. Fauci said: "Parents have to make the individual choices for children who are so young that they're not going to be able to make their own choices. And it's up to the parent. I would try to explain to the parent the advantages of getting vaccinated. And I could give an example. I have adult children, but if my children, well within that age range of five to 11, and if the FDA gave the authorization and the CDC made the recommendation that it would be safe and effective and advisable to vaccinate children, I would personally have my children vaccinated. If they were in the age range of five to 11, now parents can take whatever they want out of that message. I can just tell them what I would do."
Dr. Fauci Hopes for This in the Future
"I would hope that we ended as a pandemic and we get it to such a low level that it does not interfere with our life and disrupted as it has over the last 20 months. Um, I hope that when this is over and we no longer have a pandemic disrupting our life and our economy, that we've learned lessons of being prepared for the next pandemic, which you can't predict when that will happen. But if you look at history, it inevitably will happen. We don't know how bad it will be. We don't know whether it will be a minor event or a major event like we're living through now. But I would hope that after going through this very difficult experience that we've gone through over the last 18 to 20 months, that we would do whatever we can to be prepared and to respond in the eventuality that we had another pandemic."
This is Dr. Fauci's Biggest Concern
"My fear is that—and I wouldn't say it's fear. My concern is that we don't get it completely under control that we get such as proportion of the people who are not vaccinated, that we continue to smolder at a level that's disruptive to society right now, even though we are on a down curve of infections and hospitalizations and deaths, we still are at 95,000 new infections a day as the seven day average, that is quite disruptive of our lives. You can't go around and society and have 95,000 new infections in the United States per day. And just say, everything is okay. My concern is that we don't get it down to a very low level. I believe we can. And I believe if we do the kinds of things that we're talking about, particularly in the arena of getting vaccinated, I believe that we will get those numbers very, very low so that we don't have a disruption of our social interactions."
How to Stay Safe Out There
Follow the public health fundamentals and help end this pandemic, no matter where you live—get vaccinated ASAP; if you live in an area with low vaccination rates, wear an N95 face mask, don't travel, social distance, avoid large crowds, don't go indoors with people you're not sheltering with (especially in bars), practice good hand hygiene, and to protect your life and the lives of others, don't visit any of these 35 Places You're Most Likely to Catch COVID.