Dr Anthony Fauci has warned America is at a Covid ‘crossroad’ and claims the current level of virus deaths is ‘unacceptable’.
The government’s top infectious disease doctor said Americans should not be lured into a false sense of security because Covid stats have been deflating since spring.
There are currently 270,000 weekly cases, while deaths hover around 2,500, compared to about 500,000 and 8,500, respectively, this time last year.
While he accepted the declining numbers as progress, Dr Fauci said he expects a harsh winter with high infection levels and new variants of the virus.
‘We’re really at a point that may be a crossroads here,’ Dr Fauci said in a radio interview.
‘As we’re entering into the cooler months, we are starting to see the emergence of sublineage variants of omicron.’
He added: ‘We’re still in the middle of this — it is not over — 400 deaths per day is not an acceptable level. We want to get it much lower than that.’
Dr Fauci expects the new Omicron subvariants to render antibody therapies such as Evusheld completely useless — in a worrying sign for immunocompromised patients.
He also warned US hospitals face a ‘negative trifecta’ this winter as flu and RSV cases soar to unseasonably high levels.
Dr Fauci warned on Thursday that the US has reached a ‘crossroads’ as new omicron subvariants are gaining ground across the country, along with flu and RSV cases
The weekly average number of cases in the US hover around 270,000, a far cry from an average of 500,000 weekly cases this time last year
The seven-day average number of deaths due to Covid have fallen to about 2,500, way down from 8,500 weekly this time last year.
Infectious disease warn that Americans can expect a more severe flu season after Covid mitigation measures such as masking have been relaxed
RSV hospitalizations are most common among children under age two, who are more vulnerable to severe infection requiring supplemental oxygen. The graph shows that hospitalizations are highest among babies under six months and babies under 2 years following close behind.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says the influenza outbreak is already the worst in 13 years. And pediatric hospitals are becoming overwhelmed with RSV cases.
What did Fauci get wrong? From telling people not to wear masks to claiming vaccines stopped infections
Dr Anthony Fauci is due to step down from his position as one of America’s top infectious disease advisors at the end of this year.
His career in public health spans decades, and includes advising the Trump and Biden Administrations on handling the Covid pandemic.
Below are listed some of his key blunders when the virus struck
- Don’t wear masks, do wear masks
In March 2020 when concern was rising globally over Covid Fauci told Americans that there was ‘no need’ to wear a face mask.
He insisted at the time that they may only help people ‘feel a little better’, and ‘might even block a droplet’ — but would not provide good protection.
Less than a month later, however, he was forced into an embarrassing climbdown after it emerged the virus spread via droplets in the air.
Face masks were later mandated across indoor places and on public transport for more than two years as America rode out the Covid pandemic.
No states currently have the restrictions in place, but there are concerns they could return this winter.
Dr Fauci later suggested he advised people not to wear masks to ensure there were enough available for hospitals and healthcare centers.
- Covid did not come from a lab
Dr Fauci has also repeatedly insisted that Covid did not leak from a lab in China.
In April 2020 he dismissed the theory as a ‘shiny object that will go away’, and later brushed aside claims from other top experts as an ‘opinion’.
But evidence since built up that Covid may have leaked from a lab, rather than jumping from animals to humans as thought.
A US intelligence and WHO investigation have both failed to rule out the theory.
And Beijing has repeatedly frustrated attempts to access the Wuhan lab to investigate whether the virus did leak from the location.
Dr Fauci himself has also now backpedalled, saying instead that he keeps an ‘open mind’ although insisting that it remains ‘most likely’ that the virus spilled over from animals to humans.
- Two jabs will stop you catching Covid
When the Covid vaccine roll-out was in full swing, Dr Fauci told White House officials that there was little chance the double-jabbed would catch Covid.
He said the immunity from vaccines made them a ‘dead end’ for the virus, and even suggested they may no longer need to wear masks.
But when Omicron struck the US at the end of November it quickly became clear that two jabs did not block infection, although they did slash the risk of hospitalization and death.
America has now run several programs to ‘top up’ people’s immunity from jabs, including another this fall and winter.
‘It’s going to be very confounding and might even stress the hospital system, particularly for the pediatric population,’ Dr Fauci told the Conversations on Health Care radio show.
Nearly half of the cases and deaths due to Covid in the US can be attributed to the BA.5 variant, an offshoot of the highly transmissible Omicron strain.
BA.5 accounts for over 49 per cent of cases, but newer sub-strains XBB, BQ1, and BQ1.1. are coming up close behind.
Omicron subvariants have different mutations on their spike proteins that alter their levels of transmissibility and virulence, or, the ability of the virus to cause disease.
The new strains have already shown they are able to evade immune protection conferred through vaccines and prior infection.
The subvariant soup is also resistant to antibody treatments, which are especially crucial to protecting people with faulty immune systems, such as organ transplant recipients.
Dr Fauci warned that the immunocompromised are at especially high risk if a new Covid wave arises.
Pfizer is responsible for a blockbuster Covid treatment called Paxlovid which remains effective against the swarm of subvariants. But immunocompromised people cannot take the drug due to interactions with their other medications.
While warning that a new Covid surge is possible, Dr Fauci acknowledged that the American public has become increasingly fatigued.
Dr Fauci rose to prominence early in the pandemic for his measured tone and expertise in epidemiology.
But his popularity has suffered since then due to messaging fumbles, miscalculations about the course of the pandemic early on, and sometimes contradictory guidance.
For instance, he and former Trump administration surgeon general Jerome Adams were blasted for early advice to the public to hold off on masking up, instead saying that personal protective equipment should be preserved for healthcare professionals on the front lines.
Dr Fauci was also embroiled in a coverup scandal in which he quashed dissenting voices in the scientific community who subscribed to the theory that Covid-19 was the product of a leak from the Wuhan Institute of Virology, where scientists study coronaviruses.
Last month, Dr Fauci admitted that in the early months of the pandemic, ‘I probably should have tried to be much, much more careful in getting the message to repeat.’
The US is in far better shape than last winter when the omicron variant overtook the country.
Still, Dr Fauci cautioned that the US could soon experience a ‘negative trifecta’ of viral outbreaks.
The seasonal flu has made a comeback since sinking to negligible levels during the pandemic.
Infectious disease experts maintain that widespread adherence to mitigation measures such as masking and isolating helped quell flu outbreaks.
Meanwhile, the rate of respiratory syncytial virus hospitalizations, particularly among children, has skyrocketed in recent weeks.
Roughly four out of every 1,000 babies under six months old have been infected with RSV since the season kicked off about a month ago – two months ahead of schedule.
Two in every 1,000 babies between six months and one year have been hospitalized with RSV, as have more than one in every 1,000 children between ages of one and two.
Pediatric hospitals across the US are straining to keep up with the number of patients coming through the doors.
Over three-quarters of pediatric inpatient beds are taken while about 80 per cent of ICU beds are in use nationwide.
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