Trying to figure out when we may finally be able to move on from COVID has proven to be a nearly impossible task. Even as the overall outlook has improved thanks to highly effective vaccines, each passing day seems to give the pandemic another opportunity to change its course—including the discovery of yet another concerning variant. But as winter approaches and case numbers are already heading in the wrong direction, Anthony Fauci, MD, chief White House COVID adviser, says that we may be in store for more bad news before things get better.
During an appearance on CBS’ Face the Nation on Nov. 28, Fauci warned that the latest spike in national infections could worsen in the coming weeks. “Well, we certainly have the potential to go into a fifth wave. And the fifth wave, or the magnitude of any increase, if you want to call it that it, will turn into a wave, will really be dependent upon what we do in the next few weeks to a couple of months,” he told host Margaret Brennan.
Fauci pointed out that there is currently a dangerous situation in the U.S. where there are 62 million people who have yet to be vaccinated despite their eligibility alongside a large cohort of people who received their first two doses as many as 10 months ago and now require a booster shot. He warned that the latest increase that saw cases shoot above 80,000 a day from a plateau of around 70,000 has put us back at an “unacceptable” level, making it especially important to vaccinate and distribute boosters to everyone who needs them before the situation becomes even worse.
“So if we now do what I’m talking about in an intense way, we may be able to blunt that,” Fauci said. “If we don’t do it successfully, it is certainly conceivable and maybe likely that we will see another bit of a surge. How bad it gets is dependent upon us and how we mitigate.”
Fauci then addressed previous comments he had made in which he said cases would have to fall below 10,000 per day before the world could responsibly return to some degree of normality. But he also clarified that his outlook hadn’t changed in believing that the virus would never truly go away.
“I mean, we’ve heard people say, understandably, they’re trying to look for a metric to give to the public that we’re going to have to start living with COVID. I believe that’s the case because I don’t think we’re going to eradicate it. We’ve only eradicated one infection of mankind, and that’s smallpox. I don’t think we’re even going to eliminate it,” the top health official said.
Still, Fauci reiterated that the ultimate weapon against the virus is to make sure as many people as possible receive the necessary vaccine doses to slow the spread of COVID. “When you have these moving parts, the best way you can get to where you want to go is to just say we’re going to vaccinate as many people as we can, we’re going to get as many people boosted as we can, and we’re going to get that level down. And I think that’s going to have to be as low as less than 10,000,” he emphasized.