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COVID cases are finally peaking in half the country, as the Omicron surge—still responsible for a record number of cases and hospitalizations—flames out. But how can you stay safe? And what exactly will happen next? Dr. Anthony Fauci, the chief medical advisor to the President and the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, appeared on MSNBC opposite anchor Jose Diaz-Balart. Read on—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had COVID.
Dr. Fauci Said Here's When it Would be Acceptable to "Live With COVID" (Answer: Not Yet!)
"When you think about outbreaks of viral illnesses, you have a pandemic and then it decelerates, you can get a degree of control," said Dr. Fauci. "You might be able to eliminate it, or you could even eradicate it. I don't think there's a chance that we're gonna eradicate this. We've only done that with one virus and that's been smallpox through very important and effective vaccine campaigns from this country. We've eliminated polio and we've eliminated measles except for an intermittent outbreak in under-vaccinated population. So what I think we're gonna be able to see is not elimination, but a level of control that's low enough that it really gets integrated into the regular type of viral infections that we tend to deal with—parainfluenza, flu respiratory syncytial virus. If we can get COVID down at that level where it doesn't really challenge us and us from a public health standpoint, that would be an acceptable quote, living with the virus, but not at the level we are right now because we still have 150,000 hospitalizations, 2,000 deaths, and about 700,000 infections. That's too high a level to accept, to be living with. We have to get a way, way, way lower than that. Then I think it would be acceptable to go along and not be disrupted in society."
Dr. Fauci Said Here's Where in America Omicron is Rising and Falling
"Well, if Omicron….it peaks and comes down, if it turns out to be the dominant variant at a low level in the community, which is certainly one of the possibilities, we're seeing it peak and come down in cities like New York and in the upper Midwest, we still have an issue with it in the Southern states," said Dr. Fauci. "And some of the Western states."
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Dr. Fauci Said This About When to Expect a New Variant
"We don't know," said Dr. Fauci. "I'd have to be perfectly honest. You can surmise you, you can project a guess, but we don't know what likely happens when you have waves of this, that after a while there's enough background immunity, either from infection plus boost up or vaccine plus boost, or just plain infection and recover from infection. When you put it all together, you could have a degree of immunity in the community, such that even if new variants emerge, they don't take that surge effect that we've seen with the four now five surges that we've seen since the early 2020," he said. "So I don't believe we're gonna be seeing that indefinitely. I think it's gonna come down and down, down. And quite frankly, the more people that we get vaccinated and the more people we get boosted, the less the likelihood that we'll be seeing these return of variants that keep challenging us."
Dr. Fauci Said This About an Omicron-Specific Vaccine
"Omicron looks like it may have peaked in some places across the country, but we're just testing out an Omicron vaccine now," said Diaz-Balart. Pfizer is developing an Omicron-specific vaccine. "Why?" "What the company's trying to do is that if in fact it becomes the low level dominant variant that you'd want to protect people from breakthrough infections and you might want to boost them. It makes sense to think in terms of at least having ready, an Omicron specific boost. We may not need it….but I think it's prudent to at least prepare for the possibility that this may be a persistent variant that we may have to face, even though it's at a very low level. And for that reason, they're going ahead."
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.