(CNN) — Dr. Anthony Fauci, chief medical adviser to President Joe Biden and director of the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIH), said, “Certainly right now in this country, we’re out of the pandemic phase,” on the PBS NewsHour program on Tuesday.
“I mean, we don’t have 900,000 new infections a day and tens and tens and tens of thousands of hospitalizations and thousands of deaths. We’re at a low point right now. So if you’re wondering are we out of the pandemic phase at this country, the answer is yes,” he said.
On Wednesday, Fauci told CNN that his comments had been misconstrued to imply that the pandemic is over, “which is not what I said.”
“We are not over the pandemic. Don’t let anyone get this misconception that the pandemic is over, but that we are in a different phase of the pandemic,” he said. “A transitional phase, which will hopefully lead to more control where we can really return to some form of normalcy without total disruption to society, the economy, schools, etc.”
Fauci pointed out that Covid-19 cases are indeed on the rise, although they do not compare with the increases in cases recorded in the boreal winter during the wave of the omicron variant.
“So what we need to do is stay vigilant, follow the CDC recommendations, do the things that protect you: get vaccinated, if you’re not; get a booster shot, if you’re eligible. If you do get it, knowing that antivirals are available.
Fauci’s comments to PBS drew attention on the same day the Biden administration announced that he would not attend the annual White House correspondents’ dinner, after considering his individual risk.
“Each of us, on a personal basis, must assess the risk of infection that we are willing to accept,” Fauci told CNN. “In general, the risk is low, but I made a personal assessment. I am 81 years old and if I get infected, I have a much higher risk.”
Cases and hospitalizations on the rise
Covid-19 cases in the United States have dropped dramatically in the past two months as the surge caused by the omicron variant recedes.
But daily cases remain twice as high as they were during most of last summer.
New cases are on the rise again in most states, and hospitalizations have also started to rise in the last week.
Fewer people are dying from Covid-19 now than during most of the pandemic, but with more than 400 deaths a day, the past two months of Covid-19 have been deadlier than most recent flu seasons.
Fauci said that while the coronavirus will not be eradicated, the level of the virus in society could be kept very low if people get vaccinated intermittently, possibly every year.
Today, local health officials on the ground across the United States continue to work to get more people fully vaccinated and boosted against COVID-19.
European Union response to the next phase of the pandemic
Fauci pointed out that the Covid-19 situation in the United States does not necessarily reflect what is happening in the rest of the world either.
“Pandemic means a widespread infection around the world that spreads rapidly between people,” Fauci said. “So if you look at the global situation, there’s no question that this pandemic is ongoing.”
The European Commission said on Wednesday that the covid-19 pandemic is not over, and that “vigilance and preparation remain essential” while publishing a series of proposals to help European countries manage the current phase and prepare for it. for the next one.
The Commission asked the 27 countries of the European Union to “reinforce their surveillance, their health systems and their general preparation for the pandemic”, as well as “redouble vaccination and vaccine reinforcements” and “continue with specific tests and sequencing ” to accurately estimate the circulation of variants and detect new ones.
European Commissioner for Health and Food Safety Stella Kyriakides said on Wednesday that an estimated 60% to 80% of the US population has had covid-19.
“How we prepare today for the next phase will determine the course of the pandemic in the coming months and years,” he said.
thinking about the future
In the United States, being outside of the pandemic is not the language that Lori Tremmel Freeman, CEO of the National Association of County and City Health Officials, has heard in conversations within local health departments, she said Wednesday.
However, there has been a subtle shift on the ground, as local health officials are refocusing on non-Covid-related areas such as maternal health, childhood vaccinations, tuberculosis, HIV and other health issues. public health.
“I think subtle changes are taking place in local health departments to normalize the response to the pandemic so that they can get back to the core business of their public health departments,” Freeman said. “But those words that were used about the end of the pandemic don’t go over well in the area of public health right now.”
— CNN’s Jacqueline Howard, Deidre McPhillips and James Frater contributed to this report.