Dr. Anthony Fauci, the chief medical advisor to the President and the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, appeared yesterday at the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee hearing on "Next Steps: The Road Ahead for the COVID-19 Response." There, he was asked a question about the future of the pandemic. "Can you help us understand how we should be thinking about the path of this pandemic over the next couple of years?" Senator Tina Smith, United States Senator from Minnesota, asked. "Understanding that we don't have crystal balls and this is an unpredictable virus, what do you think the next six months to two years are gonna look like? And do you expect that COVID is going to become more endemic and less pandemic, as we move forward? And what does this mean for how people are going to be living their lives?" Read on for the answer, and five points that can save your life—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had COVID.
Dr. Fauci Said Best We Can Do is To Control the Virus
"So let me just put a very brief perspective on this," answered Fauci. "When you think about pandemics, your in the 'pandemic phase,' and then you have a deceleration phase,' then you have a 'control phase,' then hopefully you'll have elimination and maybe eradication. I think eradication is out—we've only eradicated one virus in history for humans in that smallpox. we've eliminated certain infections by very good vaccination programs, such as eliminating polio from the United States, eliminating measles, except for some pockets of unvaccinated group. So what we're really talking about is control and control has a wide bracket. You can have it under control, where you have enough infections in the community where it isn't a pandemic phase, but it still is interfering with what we would like to get back to what we used to know as normal, what we hope to get it as it's such a low level, that even though it isn't completely eliminated, it doesn't have a major impact on public health or on the way we run our lives."
Dr. Fauci Said Our Future Depends on Global Vaccinations
"We would hope that as we get people more vaccinated, not only in this country, but throughout the world, that the level of viral dynamics will be so low," continued Fauci. "I can't predict for you today when that will be. Because as we see, we now have a situation we're entering the winter. The good news is we're continuing to come down and hopefully we'll go further and further down, but what happens globally will impact us. So if we get more people vaccinated globally and more people vaccinated now, hopefully within a reasonable period of time, we will get to that point where it might occasionally be up and down in the background, but it won't dominate us the way it's doing right now."
CDC Director Said Here's What an Endemic Phase May Look Like
CDC Director Rochelle Walensky was also at the hearing. "We've been thinking a lot about what an endemic phase looks like and with the data that we're needed to collect during that phase," she said. "Certainly right now we are collecting data on cases, hospitalizations, deaths. We know that not all of our case data is a hundred percent because not every rapid test is being reported. And importantly, as we do with flu, we collect death data. We collect hospitalization data. We absolutely need to know how our healthcare systems are doing. And we absolutely need to know how deadly a flu season is. We also collect data on influenza-like illness, what is presenting and we're currently presenting collecting data now on COVID-like illness. So we are working towards those metrics of what we need. Some of them are already, in fact, all of them are already collecting. And the question is what are going to be our best metrics moving forward, and probably modeling it on flu."
CDC Director Said Vaccination Rates are Key
"The other metric that I think is critically important is vaccination rates," said Walensky. "And one thing that we haven't really touched on just in this conversation, but we are absolutely working on and doing much better is our race and ethnicity data, our equity data, because if we are not following how we are doing in these communities with racial and ethnic minorities, we are not going to understand the impact of this pandemic on all the communities in this nation. We've actually actively worked on making sure that those are up to speed as well."
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How to Stay Safe Out There
Follow the public health fundamentals and help end this pandemic, no matter where you live—get vaccinated 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.