Here we go again.
In an interview with The Guardian published Monday, top U.S. infectious disease official Dr. Anthony Fauci said that while the country’s COVID-19 cases are on a downward trend, states are opening up and more and more Americans are getting vaccinated, it’s still not time to let up — and won’t be for a while.
“We don’t want to declare victory prematurely because we still have a ways to go,” Fauci told the British paper. “But the more and more people that can get vaccinated, as a community, the community will be safer and safer.”
Yes, new daily cases are down 53 percent since May 1. Yes, according to New York Times data, daily COVID deaths have fallen from a seven-day average of 3,301 on Jan. 1 to 392 on May 31. And yes, we have travel restrictions in place, as well as quarantines for those arriving from countries where the problem is more severe.
But, as always with Fauci, now is not the time to let our guard down.
“As long as there is some degree of activity throughout the world, there’s always a danger of variants emerging and diminishing somewhat the effectiveness of our vaccines,” Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told the Guardian.
And even though 59 percent of Americans 12 and up had received their first dose of the vaccine as of Friday — getting closer to President Joe Biden’s goal of 70 percent first-dose vaccination by July 4 — and cases are at their lowest level since June of 2020, Fauci is still, as always, alarmed.
“We cannot abandon public health measures when you still have a degree of viral activity in the broad community in the United States,” Fauci told The Guardian. “Although we’re down to less than 30,000 infections per day, that’s still a lot of infections per day.”
Then again, what are we to expect from Dr. Fauci? After all, we’re talking about a man who told us last month that mask-wearing in the United States might never fully go away.
“At what point can we stop wearing masks outside? At what point if vaccinated people get together, do you take the masks off?” Chuck Todd of NBC News’ “Meet the Press” asked Fauci during an interview. “Is the mask going to be something we have with us in a seasonal aspect?”
“I think people have gotten used to the fact that wearing masks — clearly if you look at the data — diminishes respiratory diseases,” Fauci responded. “We’ve had practically a non-existent flu season this year, merely because people were doing the kinds of public health things that were directed predominantly against COVID-19.”
“The Australians during their winter, same thing. They had almost no flu largely due to the kinds of things including mask-wearing.
“So it is conceivable that as we go on a year or two or more from now — that during certain seasonal periods when you have respiratory-borne viruses like the flu — people might actually elect to wear masks to diminish the likelihood that you’ll spread these respiratory-borne diseases.”
And then in April, he said children should play outside with masks on until they get vaccinated:
So when are we getting back to normal? According to Dr. Fauci, by at least Mother’s Day 2022. Maybe.
“I hope that next Mother’s Day, we’re going to see a dramatic difference than what we’re seeing right now. I believe that we will be about as close to back to normal as we can,” Fauci told ABC’s “This Week with George Stephanopoulos” in a May 9 interview.
“We’ve got to make sure that we get the overwhelming proportion of the population vaccinated,” he added. “When that happens, the virus doesn’t really have any place to go. There aren’t a lot of vulnerable people around. And where there are not a lot of vulnerable people around, you’re not going to see a surge. You’re not going to see the kinds of numbers we see now.”
So, to Fauci, the goal is now pandemic precautions all through this summer, then into 2022 until next Mother’s Day — almost a year hence — before life can return to normal?
Even putting the best of interpretations on the motives behind these remarks, they come from a place of obscene overcautiousness, one where COVID needs to be fought to the last case before life gets back to normal — if it even does then.
After all, Fauci stated last year that, “in a perfect world,” we’d all stop shaking hands after the pandemic. If that doesn’t say it all, what does?
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