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With COVID cases at all time highs—and hospitalizations breaking records as well—Dr. Anthony Fauci, the chief medical advisor to the President and the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, is concerned. "We're dealing, as we all know now, with an unprecedented outbreak with COVID-19, that continually rechallenges us with new variants," said Dr. Fauci. He spoke with KNX News 97.1 FM in Los Angeles about who is getting sick from Omicron, if wearing masks will last forever, and how you can stay safe. Read on for 6 essential pieces of advice—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 Who is Getting Badly "Sick" From Omicron
"The FDA head said something along the lines of, you know, sooner or later everyone is going to get the Omicron variant. And that left a lot of people scratching their heads, thinking well, vaccinated or not boosted or not, I'm gonna get sick with COVID? That is not what was meant. Was it?" asked the host. "No," said Dr. Fauci, "that absolutely is not what it's meant. And the operative word that you just mentioned is 'getting sick' and what I believe it was Janet Woodcock, the acting commissioner of the FDA said that at a hearing, what she was referring to is that Omicron is such a highly transmissible virus, that it will essentially be exposed to virtually everybody because of its ability to transmit from person to person. What will happen is that everyone likely will exposed to it. And maybe everyone will get 'infected,' but infected doesn't mean you get symptoms and infected doesn't mean that you get sick. We know very, very clearly from good data with Delta, and there's no reason to believe it's gonna be any different with Omicron, that when you look at the people who are unvaccinated versus those who are vaccinated, the likelihood of getting infected of requiring hospitalization or of dying is much, much, much higher in an unvaccinated person than a vaccinated person, particularly the vaccinated person who's boosted. So what she was referring to is that maybe we're gonna get exposed. And many, many, many of us will get infected, even if we are vaccinated, but vaccination will protect you for the most part against getting seriously ill."
Dr. Fauci Warned Against Thinking COVID is "Mild"
Omicron has been caled "more mild" than Delta but "mild to me means, you know, oh, a few days at home, sore throat, whatever. Mild to doctors can mean the worst flu of your life, but you don't have to go to the ER. Right? So it can still be really, really bad," said the host. "Absolutely," said Dr. Fauci. "I mean, I think I'm glad you brought that question up because it really is the source of some confusion. If you look on a case by case basis in an otherwise normal population, there is no doubt that Omicron is less severe with regard to a requirement for hospitalization, for the duration of the stay in the hospital, for the requirement for mechanical ventilation. However, when, and you get so many people infected because it's so much of a highly transmissible virus that you are gonna get a proportion of those individuals who are going to get seriously ill. It will be much more weighted to the elderly and for those with underlying conditions. So you don't want people to feel that just because, in general, Omicron may be inherently less severe than Delta, that everybody's gonna be just fine with Omicron. That's not the case. You're gonna see people who are hospitalized and they're gonna be people who die. …. we can't be overly complacent about it."
Will We Have to Wear Masks Forever?
"No. The answer to that is clear. And the answer is no. This is not going to last forever. I think there will be circumstances, during mini outbreaks like maybe in the influenza season, where people will elect to wear masks. I think people realize now something that we never realized but that many countries, particularly in Asia, realize that well beyond and well before COVID-19, there were many people in foreign countries…that during the winter season, when there were respiratory diseases going around, they would voluntarily wear a mask. It wasn't mandated, but they would voluntarily do that. That could be the case some time with us, but I don't think we are going to be wearing masks for the rest of our lives. I think that's an over exaggeration."
Dr. Fauci Said a "COVID Pill" Isn't Readily Available For Everyone Yet, So Do Not Think Infection is OK
You can't just pop a few pills and be good after a COVID infection—that's not "the reality of where we are now with the pills. First of all, let me just make a couple of factual statements that people need to understand," said Dr. Fauci. "It is always, always better to prevent an infection than to get infected and having to treat the infection because no treatment is 100% effective. That's for sure. So the best thing to do is prevent the infection. If you are infected, we have some very good drugs that have—given earlier enough in the course of the infection—can go a long way to preventing you from progressing to severe disease, leading to hospitalizations and deaths. For example, Paxlovid, the drug by Pfizer, diminishes the likelihood of your going to be hospitalized or dying by about 89 to 90 if given very early in the first three to five days, you have a monoclonal antibody sotrovimab, that again, if given early on has a high degree of protection, the drug remdesivir, which requires an intravenous infusion is also highly effective….Currently the supply of drugs does not meet a demand for it, but the federal government has contracted with the companies to markedly increase the availability, for example, of Paxlovid, to double the original contract for 10 million treatment courses to double that to 20 million treatment courses. So we recognize that there is a supply demand, the issue, but hopefully over a reasonable period of time, that will be corrected."
Dr. Fauci Says This Has Hindered Our Response
"We've learned some lessons that are productive lessons, and we've learned some very chilling lessons," said Dr. Fauci. "We've learned that the science that got us to be able to develop a vaccine so rapidly in unprecedented speed, less than a year from the time of the identification of the virus, to the time you're putting a highly effective and safe vaccine into the arms of individuals. We've learned that we need global cooperation and collaboration and solidarity since global pandemics require a global response. The other thing that we've learned that we've gotta make sure that we keep political divisiveness out of our response to the outbreak, because one of the greatest impediments to a comprehensive response is when public health principles are severely influenced by ideology and political persuasion. The common enemy is the virus, not each other. And if we want to effectively get through a pandemic, we've gotta all be on the same team, pulling together and implementing sound, universally acceptable public health principles, and not violate that by things like misinformation, about vaccines and misinformation about masking that does nothing but hinder our response."
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.