Dr. Anthony Fauci said Wednesday that the pandemic is not over after earlier saying the U.S. was “out of the pandemic phase” of COVID-19 due to the nation’s low level of deaths, hospitalizations and cases being reported.
Speaking to NPR on Wednesday, Fauci said: “I want to clarify one thing. I probably should have said the acute component of the pandemic phase. And I understand how that can lead to some misinterpretation.”
And in remarks to The Washington Post on Wednesday, Fauci described the nation as being in a “transitional phase, from a deceleration of the numbers into hopefully a more controlled phase and endemicity.”
In his initial remarks, the nation’s top infectious disease expert told “PBS NewsHour” that while globally there was “no doubt that this pandemic is still ongoing,” in the U.S., “we are at a low level right now,” referring to the nation’s status as COVID-19 cases continue a weeks-long plateau, with fewer than 60,000 new cases being reported a day, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
That’s down from the U.S. reporting more than 1 million new infections in a single day back in January.
“We don’t have 900,000 new infections a day and tens and tens and tens of hospitalizations and thousands of deaths. We are at a low level right now, so if you’re saying are we are out of the pandemic phase in this country, we are,” Fauci said Tuesday.
He cautioned that “we’re not going to eradicate this virus,” meaning that intermittent vaccinations, annually or longer, will be needed to ensure cases don’t rise again.
While cases have generally dropped and plateaued in the U.S. ― where vaccinations have been made widely available ― globally, cases continue to hit pandemic proportions, he said.
“Pandemic means a widespread, throughout the world infection that spreads rapidly among people, so if you look at the global situation, there’s no doubt that this pandemic is still ongoing,” Fauci said.
Globally, nearly 26 million cases have been reported over the last 28 days, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. Italy, Australia, Japan and Vietnam have had the highest number of cases during that roughly four-week period, with the U.S. following behind along with the United Kingdom.
Medical experts, including Fauci, have noted that case counts in the U.S. are likely much lower than they actually are. Reasons for this include home testing and some of those infected not receiving medical attention because they have few symptoms, if any, from the virus.
More than half of new COVID-19 cases in the U.S. today are from the omicron virus variant known as BA.2. Evidence suggests that while this variant is more transmissible than the original coronavirus variant, it may cause less severe disease than the delta variant.