The US is out of the “full-blown explosive pandemic phase” and has entered a “transitional phase,” according to Dr Anthony Fauci, President Joe Biden’s chief medical adviser.
However, he hastened to add that this does not mean that the COVID-19 pandemic is totally done and dusted, stressing that the country needs to remain vigilant to protect against resurgences of the disease.
Speaking on PBS's "NewsHour" on Tuesday, Dr Fauci said he believed the country is out of the pandemic phase.
"Namely, we don't have 900,000 new infections a day and tens and tens and tens of thousands of hospitalizations and thousands of deaths. We are at a low level right now. So if you're saying, are we out of the pandemic phase in this country? We are," he said.
Clarifying the comments on Wednesday, Fauci told the Washington Post: “The world is still in a pandemic. There’s no doubt about that. Don’t anybody get any misinterpretation of that. We are still experiencing a pandemic."
He explained that he thought the US had entered a "transition phase", where people can expect to see further forms of “normality” returning to everyday lives with less disruption from the virus to society, economically, socially, and with regards to schools, etc.
“Right now, we’re at a low enough level that I believe that we’re transitioning into endemicity… We’re not in the full-blown explosive pandemic phase. That does not mean that the pandemic is over,” Fauci told the Post. “A pandemic means widespread infection throughout the world. … In our country, we’re transitioning into more of a controlled endemicity.”
The comments come after data from the CDC has shown that almost 60 percent of people in the US now have detectable levels of antibodies against COVID-19, up from just 33 percent in December 2021. That’s a solid amount of population-level immunity, although it’s still not clear how long these antibodies will last and how they might fare against any new variants that may emerge.
“What we need to do is continue to be vigilant, to follow the CDC guidelines, to do the kinds of things that protect you: Get vaccinated, if you're not vaccinated; get boosted if you're eligible for a boost,” Fauci reiterated to CNN.
Many other countries have been grappling with the idea of COVID-19 becoming an endemic disease, whereby the disease remains in circulation, but without violent surges of deadly infections, perhaps comparable to seasonal flu outbreaks. In this phase, countries hope to “learn to live with the disease” through more subtle and sophisticated interventions, as opposed to harsh lockdowns and social distancing measures.
Some countries, such as Denmark, have even halted vaccination invitations due to high levels of immunization, a decrease in cases, and stabilizing hospital rates. Denmark, however, has had a huge uptake in COVID vaccination, with 81 percent of its population, or four in five people, fully vaccinated.
The World Health Organization has previously suggested that Europe has entered a “plausible endgame” to the pandemic by transitioning into the endemic phase. However, others have called for caution with making any such bold assertions, arguing that COVID-19 may still have a few tricks left up its sleeve. Until a high enough portion of the world is immunized against the virus, the potential for new variants to mutate in places with low accessibility to or uptake of vaccines is still there.