Fauci Walks Back Claim US Is ‘Out of the Pandemic Phase’

  • Dr. Anthony Fauci said the US is “out of the pandemic phase” with COVID-19, but he’s still taking some precautions.
  • He later said his words could have “lead to some misinterpretation” and clarified that he was talking about an “acute, fulminant phase.”
  • US COVID-19 cases are up, but hospitalizations remain low, and deaths are dropping.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, wants Americans to know “the pandemic is not over,” after he told PBS on Tuesday that the United States is “out of the pandemic phase” with COVID-19.

“I want to clarify one thing,” Fauci told NPR on Wednesday afternoon. “I understand how that could lead to some misinterpretation. I was talking about the acute, fulminant phase, and everyone agrees we’re not there. We’re not getting 900,000 infections a day. Is the pandemic still here? Absolutely.”

Fauci, who directs the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, had cited the current “low level” of COVID-19 hospitalizations and deaths nationwide as his reasoning for the bold “out of the pandemic phase” statement, arguing that the country is out of crisis mode with the coronavirus, at least for now.

“When I said ‘phase’ I probably should have said ‘the acute stage of the pandemic phase,'” he told NPR 1A host Jenn White.

Entering a new ‘phase’ of ‘starting to learn to live with the virus’

What Fauci said he was trying to express is the idea that the country is “transitioning” into a phase of the outbreak where the level of infection is low enough that “people are starting to learn to live with the virus, still protecting themselves by vaccination , by the availability of antivirals, by testing. “

In other words, as scientists have developed vaccines, treatments, and diagnostics against COVID-19, it has become a more manageable, less life-threatening foe.

Still, “the pandemic is not over, do not anyone think that,” Fauci said on NPR, echoing his remarks on PBS, where he emphasized that “if you look at the global situation, there’s no doubt this pandemic is still ongoing. “

His remarks reflect a change in scientific attitude that’s been adopted in many countries in recent months – acknowledging the virus is not going to go away, but that there are many layers of different measures people can use to fight against it now. The European Commission, similarly, released a statement on Wednesday saying the EU is “transitioning out of the acute COVID-19 phase.”

That does not mean that things are totally carefree, COVID-wise. Fauci, who is 81, recently backed out of the White House Correspondents’ dinner, telling the New York Times he decided not to go to the event that many Washington insiders call “nerd prom” because of “individual assessment of my personal risk.”

cdc chart showing cases up a lot, deaths down, and hospitalizations only up slightly

COVID-19 cases are accelerating nationwide, but severe outcomes are not.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention


COVID-19 cases in the US, which are now all attributable to the hyper-infectious Omicron variant, are still on the rise – up more than 22% in the last week according to CDC data – but Fauci told PBS that “we’re not going to eradicate this virus “and that people will have to be routinely vaccinated to keep the rates of severe illness and death low.

“I do not know how often that would have to be,” Fauci said of vaccination. “That might be every year, that might be longer, in order to keep that level low.”

Independent disease pros agree it’s not clear yet exactly when we might need more shots, because the ones we have are still very effective at preventing severe disease and death.

“For most of the population, what we have right now – a primary series and one booster dose, appears to be protective,” Dr. Beth Bell, a leading infectious disease expert and professor at the University of Washington, told the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention at a public meeting last week.

Other public health experts, both within the Biden Administration, and independent of it, agree that getting rid of COVID-19 entirely is neither feasible, nor paramount.

“We have a very, very contagious variant out there,” White House Coronavirus Response Coordinator Dr. Ashish Jha said on Tuesday during a briefing. “It’s going to be hard to ensure that no one gets COVID in America. That’s not even a policy goal. The goal of our policies should be, obviously, minimize infections whenever possible, but to make sure people do not get seriously ill . “

The nation’s supply of antiviral drugs against COVID-19 (like Paxlovid) is improving, and there is also a prophylactic called Evusheld, which immunocompromised patients can take, if they do not respond well to vaccines.

This story has been updated with Dr. Fauci’s remarks to NPR.

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