Don't "declare victory" over COVID-19 just yet—the number of daily infections is still too high, said Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation's top infectious disease specialist, on Wednesday. New infections in the U.S. have declined sharply from their early-January peak. But the decline has leveled off in recent days, stalling at slightly above 60,000 cases. At the same time, a number of coronavirus variants are making inroads in several states, including one identified last week that began in New York City. Read on for his warning—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had Coronavirus.
"Let's Not Declare Victory," Warned Dr. Fauci
"Let's not declare victory yet, right?" said Fauci in an interview with Wired. "You don't want the decline that we're seeing to plateau at an unreasonably high level. Right now, the level of daily infections is somewhere between 60,000 and 70,000 a day. That's absolutely too high a level to be acceptable."
Fauci had previously said that an acceptable daily baseline would be 10,000 or less.
"I don't want to be a downer on all of this," he said. "But you've got to continue to practice public health measures until the level of infection goes way, way down."
Vaccinations and Public Health Measures Key, He Says
And vaccinate in high numbers."There is a tenet in biology that viruses do not mutate unless you give them the opportunity to replicate," said Fauci. "The easiest way to prevent the spread in the community is to vaccinate as many people as possible at the same time that you stick to the public health measures of wearing masks, of avoiding close contact, of avoiding congregate settings."
Vaccinations have ramped up significantly in recent weeks—an average of 1.9 million shots are now being administered daily nationwide. But health officials are in a race against a mutating virus whose offshoots are more contagious and seem to reduce the effectiveness of both vaccines and monoclonal antibodies, one of the few treatments for severe cases of COVID-19.
"It is our task now to, as quickly and as expeditiously as possible, get as many people vaccinated as we can, in a very organized, quick, and efficient manner," said Fauci. "When you do that, you suppress the virus enough that the threat diminishes and diminishes and diminishes."
How to Survive this Pandemic
As for yourself, do everything you can to prevent getting—and spreading—COVID-19 in the first place: Wear a face mask, get tested if you think you have coronavirus, avoid crowds (and bars, and house parties), practice social distancing, only run essential errands, wash your hands regularly, disinfect frequently touched surfaces, and to get through this pandemic at your healthiest, don't miss these 35 Places You're Most Likely to Catch COVID.