- The Washington Times - Sunday, May 9, 2021

The U.S. will likely avoid a surge of new coronavirus cases this fall, said Dr. Anthony Fauci as long as vaccination rates continue to hit government goals.

Dr. Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told NBC on Sunday that if Americans follow the federal government’s guidance on vaccines, then he thinks large spikes in COVID-19 infection rates won’t happen.

“If we get, which we will, to the goals that the president has established, namely if we get 70% of the people vaccinated by the Fourth of July, namely one single dose, and even more thereafter, you may see blips,” Dr. Fauci said on the network’s “Meet the Press” program. “But if we handle them well, it is unlikely that you’ll see the kind of surge that we saw in the late fall and the early winter.”

This, he said, is why vaccination matters so much.

“That’s the reason … why we plead with people to get vaccinated, because the larger proportion of the population that’s vaccinated, the less likelihood that in a season like the coming fall or winter you’re going to see a significant surge. There’s no doubt about that,” he said.

Dr. Fauci said the U.S. has had “practically a nonexistent flu season this year” because of people getting used to wearing masks and coverings.

American culture has long resisted mask-wearing, partly because of ties with criminality or duplicity and partly a preference for seeing people’s faces and hearing their words. 

But Dr. Fauci said that in the future masks could become a routine part of American life.

“So it is conceivable that, as we go on a year or two or more from now, that during certain seasonal periods when you have respiratory borne viruses like the flu, people might actually elect to wear masks to diminish the likelihood that you’ll spread these respiratory borne diseases,” he said.

White House COVID-19 coordinator Jeff Zients also said Sunday that the U.S. is “turning the corner” on the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I would say we are turning the corner,” he said on CNN’s “State of the Union.” “We now have, as of this morning, 58% of adult Americans with at least one shot, over 110 million Americans fully vaccinated. The president has set a goal of 70% of Americans being vaccinated with at least one shot by July 4. We’re at 58% today.”

But Dr. Fauci also said that he had “no doubt” the U.S. had been undercounting the number of COVID-19 deaths.

The official death count is just under 600,000, but Dr. Fauci noted favorably a University of Washington analysis published Thursday that claimed the actual toll is probably over 900,000 — “a bit more than I would have thought,” he said.

“Sometimes the models are right on line, sometimes they’re a bit off,” he added.

As far as making vaccination goals is concerned, Dr. Fauci noted that the U.S. vaccination pace is slowing and said “trusted messengers” must help overcome the hesitancy in some groups.

“It could be sports figures, it could be entertainment figures, it could be clergy or it could be your family doctor,” he said.

He spoke hours after a variety of high-profile people such as Prince Harry, Jennifer Lopez, President Biden and Pope Francis made appearances on a TV and streaming special about the importance of vaccines.

• Ryan Lovelace can be reached at rlovelace@washingtontimes.com.

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