Dr. Anthony Fauci has given an upbeat assessment of the current state of the coronavirus in the United States, saying the country is “out of the pandemic phase” when it comes to new infections, hospitalizations and deaths, but that it appears to be making a transition to COVID-19 becoming an endemic disease — occurring regularly in certain areas.
Fauci, the nation's top infectious disease expert, said on the PBS “NewsHour” on Tuesday that the coronavirus remains a pandemic for much of the world, but the threat is not over for the United States, adding that he was speaking about the worst phase of the pandemic.
"Namely, we don’t have 900,000 new infections a day and tens and tens and tens of thousands of hospitalizations and thousands of deaths. We are at a low level right now,” he said.
In comments Wednesday to The Washington Post, however, Fauci seemed to clarify his earlier remarks, saying that unlike the “full-blown explosive pandemic phase” during the brutal winter omicron surge, he was describing what appears to be a period of transition toward the coronavirus becoming an endemic disease.
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“The world is still in a pandemic. There’s no doubt about that. Don’t anybody get any misinterpretation of that. We are still experiencing a pandemic,” Fauci told the Post.
His comments come as health authorities wrestle with how to keep COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations manageable and learn to live with what's still a mutating and unpredictable virus. The Biden administration has stressed that the nation has more tools — vaccinations, booster shots and medications — to better handle infections than earlier in the pandemic.
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U.S. cases are far lower than they were in recent months. But health officials are keeping a close eye as highly contagious variants continue to spread. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says cases have risen about 25% in the past week.
Meanwhile, Fauci decided not to attend Saturday's White House Correspondents' Association dinner amid concerns about COVID-19, telling The New York Times on Tuesday that his decision was based on "my individual assessment of my personal risk."
President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden plan to attend the dinner at the Washington Hilton, which hasn't been held since 2019 because of the pandemic. Trevor Noah, host of Comedy Central’s “The Daily Show,” is serving as the event's entertainer.
It'll be the first time a sitting president is there since Barack Obama in 2016. Donald Trump opted to skip the event when he was president