Fauci Says U.S. Is Still In COVID Pandemic Phase, Has Tools To Fight Winter Surge

“I think you just need to look at the numbers," Fauci said. "We’re still having between 300 and 400 deaths per day.”

Dr. Anthony Fauci, President Joe Biden’s outgoing chief medical adviser, on Sunday said the country is still in the pandemic phase of COVID-19.

“We certainly are still in it,” Fauci told NBC’s “Meet the Press.” “I think you just need to look at the numbers. We’re still having between 300 and 400 deaths per day.”

As of Friday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had recorded a weekly total of 305,082 cases and 2,644 deaths. The case numbers are likely an undercount given the prevalence of at-home COVID-19 tests.

Fauci warned that with winter on the way the U.S. it at risk of another surge, but we now have the tools to fight it, including booster shots.

“It’s up to us to make sure that doesn’t happen. And that’s the thing that’s very frustrating,” Fauci said. “We have an updated vaccine booster that we want to do, but the uptake of that is, you know, less than 15%. It’s somewhere between 11% and 15%. We’ve got to do better than that.”

This month, the White House announced a six-week campaign to get more Americans boosted by the end of this year, focusing on seniors and communities hit the hardest by COVID-19. The actions include making the vaccine available at even more locations and expanding outreach by running TV, digital and social ads.

“I think we’re going to see a lot more people getting vaccinated in the upcoming weeks,” Dr. Ashish Jha, the White House COVID-19 response coordinator, told ABC’s “This Week.” “This is why we’re launching the campaign we are right now, because we think it’s incredibly important as we head into the holidays for people to update their immunity, get the new COVID vaccine, get the flu shot. It’s a great way to stay safe and healthy this holiday season.”

Fauci was also asked to weigh in on the lab leak theory, which purports that the virus that causes COVID-19 escaped from China’s Wuhan Institute of Virology.

“I have a completely open mind about that, despite people saying that I don’t,” he said.

He added, however, that the preponderance of evidence “strongly points to this being a natural occurrence of a jumping of a virus from a bat to an animal species to human.”

Earlier this month, former Vice President Mike Pence offered his assessment that the reason Fauci was vilified is that he “ultimately aligned himself with many Democrat governors who took what were temporary policies and made them long-term policies in their state.”

“I don’t align myself with anybody,” Fauci told NBC’s Chuck Todd. “I’m a physician. I’m a scientist. I’m a public health person. It doesn’t matter if you’re a Democrat or Republican, I go by the public health principles.”

Fauci will be stepping down from his roles as director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and chief medical adviser to the president next month.

“After more than 50 years of government service, I plan to pursue the next phase of my career while I still have so much energy and passion for my field,” he said in August.

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