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Dr. Anthony Fauci appeared on CNN's New Day to discuss what is happening with the COVID-19 virus, and explain his concern about the highly transmissible BA.5 subvariant currently driving cases and hospitalizations across the US. Here is what he believes will happen next. Read on—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had COVID.
BA.5 Is Highly Transmissible
"[BA.5] has what we call a transmission advantage over prior variants," says Dr. Fauci. "As you know, we've gone through BA.1 and BA.2, different numbers, BA.2.12.1. Now we have BA.5, which clearly because of its ability to evade immune responses, either from the vaccine or from people who have been previously infected, the ability to infect an individual is enhanced over prior variants. And that's the reason why you're seeing us, where a reported 140,000 cases or so a day, it's likely a gross underestimate because so many people get tested with home kits and don't report it."
Hospitalizations Are Up
"We're probably seeing a multifold greater number than that 140,000—deaths are still around 300—but hospitalizations are ticking up," says Dr. Fauci. "So this is something you don't want to panic about, but we really need to pay attention to it because there are things that we can do to blunt that, I mean, we still don't have as many people vaccinated as we need—only 67% of the population. Only half of those are boosted. We need to be using the mitigations that we have available: Masking where appropriate, vaccinating people who aren't vaccinated, and boosting people who are ready and eligible for their boost. We can do that, but we're not doing it to the extent that we should be doing it."
Likelihood Of Reinfection Is High
"Usually immediately after you've been infected within a period of weeks to a month or so, you are pretty much protected, because of the immune response," says Dr. Fauci. "Some people—and they're outliers—have been documented to be infected weeks to a month after the initial infection. But most of the time the protection lasts for a few months. But if somebody was infected several months ago, particularly if they were infected with Omicron, the protection that's given to you against BA.5 wanes and diminishes pretty rapidly over a period of several months."
If You're Not Boosted, You're Not Protected
"Immunity against infection wanes pretty quickly," warns Dr. Fauci. "And it goes way, way down. What we've been fortunate is that the immunity against severe disease leading to hospitalization and unfortunately death in some cases tends to hold reasonably well, but it's slipping where it was up to 90, 80. Then it goes down to 70, 75, 65 and 50. Then you're really in a situation where you really do need a boost. And we know when you get out six, seven months or so, we're now in July, we're in the seventh month of the year. Most people who have not received a booster this year have a diminished immunity."
Should We Wear Masks Indoors Again?
"As the CDC makes it very clear, depending upon the density of infection and the dynamics of infection in the place where you live—and you see, if you look at the map where just a couple of months ago, it was a lot of green and some yellow, now we're seeing a fair amount of orange—which means you really should in an indoor setting, a congregate setting, be wearing masks," says Dr. Fauci. "It's just the appropriate thing to do to protect yourself and your family and those around you, because you could get infected and inadvertently without any symptoms transmit it to someone perhaps in your own household, who's vulnerable either an elderly person, or someone with immune compromise. And that's the reason why when you're in an area where the infection dynamic is high, you should wear a mask in a congregate indoor setting."
What About Boosters for People Under 50?
"Well, it is being very seriously and actively considered, we were talking about this just literally every day for the last couple of days," says Dr. Fauci. "Obviously, this is something that is an FDA regulatory decision. Those are the people most qualified to look at the data and to make a decision whether or not they would extend the regulation to be able to give it to people less than 50. But I can tell you, this is something that is being actively discussed. I can't predict if and when it will happen, but I believe it's going to be within a very reasonable period of time."
How to Stay Safe Out There
Follow the public health fundamentals and help end this pandemic, no matter where you live—get vaccinated or boosted ASAP; if you live in an area with low vaccination rates, wear an N95 face mask, don't travel, social distance, avoid large crowds, don't go indoors with people you're not sheltering with (especially in bars), practice good hand hygiene, and to protect your life and the lives of others, don't visit any of these 35 Places You're Most Likely to Catch COVID.