Even as many weary Americans are moving on with their lives, the top U.S. immunologist White House chief medical adviser is warning that COVID-19 restrictions could soon return.
“I don’t want to use the word ‘lockdowns.’ That has a charged element to it. But, I believe that we must keep our eye on the pattern of what we’re seeing with infections,” he said in an interview on the BBC’s “Sunday Morning.”
“Having said that, we need to be prepared for the possibility that we would have another variant that would come along,” Fauci said. “And then, if things change and we do get a variant that does give us an uptick in cases and hospitalization, we should be prepared and flexible enough to pivot toward going back – at least temporarily – to a more rigid type of restrictions, such as requiring masks indoor.”
Still, things seem to be ebbing, at least of late. The U.S. reported 42,967 new cases and 985 deaths on Tuesday, according to data from the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center. But in January, there were more than 60,000 reported deaths from the virus.
Fauci warned that there are currently the “same conditions” in the U.S. that are causing a surge in cases in Europe.
“It’s the greater transmissibility of the BA.2, it’s the relaxation of restriction, particularly in the context of indoor masking in congregate settings, and also the fact that immunity, due to both vaccination as well as people who have been previously infected, tends to wane with SARS-CoV-2 – particularly with Omicron,” he said.
The more contagious subvariant of Omicron, BA.2, is raging across the U.S., now accounting for more than a third of all COVID-19 infections, according to data published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) last week. Several studies have found that BA.2 is even more transmissible than an earlier variant, BA.1, but still most scientists are not concerned.
“In early 2022, BA.2 was growing more common in a number of countries,” The New York Times recently reported. “By February, it had become dominant worldwide, driving down the once-dominant BA.1. In the United States, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimated that BA.2 jumped to 11% in early March from 1% in early February. It could soon become dominant in this country as well.”
“But that does not mean that Americans are riding a new BA.2 wave that is infecting a lot of new people. As BA.2 became more common in the United States, the total number of new cases fell by about 95%. Worldwide, the number of daily new cases had fallen to half of what they were at their peak in late January,” The Times reported.
Meanwhile, more than half of Americans (52%) say they have contracted the virus, according to a new Monmouth University poll. That number has jumped from just seven weeks ago, when 40% said they’d had it. The numbers, though, are not concrete. “[A] little more than 4 in 10 say they’ve tested positive for or been diagnosed with covid-19, while 10 percent say they haven’t been diagnosed but know they’ve had the virus,” The Washington Post reported.
Joseph Curl has covered politics for 35 years, including 12 years as White House correspondent, and ran the Drudge Report from 2010 to 2015. Send tips to email@example.com and follow him on Twitter @josephcurl.