When can we get back to normal? When will we reach herd immunity? When can we stop worrying? When will this pandemic be over? Dr. Anthony Fauci, the chief medical advisor to the President and the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, spoke with Meghna Chakrabarti of WBUR about all those things and more. Read on for 5 key takeaways that may save your life—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don’t miss these Sure Signs You Had COVID and Didn’t Know It.
Dr. Fauci Said Here’s One Way to Tell the Pandemic Has Ended
“What measure are you using to say: When we hit this particular point — let’s say in deaths per day or new infections per day — that we can consider COVID no longer pandemic, but a manageable endemic disease like the flu?” Fauci was asked. “Yeah, you know, again, it depends on what you mean by the infection and what it causes,” he answered. “Let me give you an example: It could be that when a certain percentage of people get vaccinated, the number of hospitalizations will go down. So it may be a situation where you get people infected to get mild symptoms, but very few people get hospitalized when you have a certain percentage of people vaccinated. So you could say that that could be a certain number of hospitalizations per 100,000 population. And then you could do modeling to figure out what that is or the number of positive test case positivity. Those are the kind of things that you look at.”
Dr. Fauci Said Here’s When You Can Enjoy Life Freely Again
“When can I start going out to dinner, going to the movies, going to a ball game, making sure the kids are safely in school?” asked Fauci. “And that number will be when that level of infection is really very low. But you won’t know what that is. I mean, it should be, you know, in the few thousand as opposed to 30, 40, 50, 60 thousand.”
Dr. Fauci Says Here’s How to Go About Your Life at This Moment
Dr. Fauci was asked how to go about our lives at this moment. “You know, it will change, and it will change again, depending upon the level of the dynamics of the virus in society. So right now, what you’ve seen and will continue to see is a gradual liberalization of what one can do, depending upon the level of virus in society and the number of people who are vaccinated, which will definitely influence that level of infection in the society.
For example, right now, when we were having 60,000 infections per day, the CDC, which is the larger group of epidemiologists that make these models and talk about the kinds of things you’re asking about, felt comfortable that people who were masked can now feel much safer traveling. They can be with other people who are vaccinated in the home without the masks, having physical contact. They then came out a couple of days ago as the levels started going down, and we are getting more and more people vaccinated that they could eat outdoors without a mask, that they could be doing things with outdoor activities without a mask.
And as the weeks go by and you get more and more people vaccinated and less and less infections, there’s going to be more liberalization….”
Dr. Fauci Said Focusing on Herd Immunity is Less Important Than Getting More People Vaccinated
Dr. Fauci was asked if herd immunity was achievable. “Yeah. You know, Meghna, I want to clarify one thing so that people don’t get confused,” he answered. “And I always say there’s this elusive, somewhat mystical terminology of ‘herd immunity’ and ‘herd immunity threshold.’ You know, that is when you get such a blanketed protection over the community. And we don’t know what that number is, Meghna. I mean, it’s an estimate. I have estimated for months now it’s somewhere between 70 and 85 percent. But we really don’t know that because that’s influenced by so many factors: the durability of immunity for people who’ve previously been infected, the appearance of variance and things like that. So I prefer rather than concentrating on this somewhat nondescript concept that we still don’t know what that number is, is to say, ‘Let’s get as many people vaccinated as quickly as you possibly can.'”
Dr. Fauci the Number of Cases Prove the Vaccines are Working
“For several, several weeks, we had a seven-day average of about 60,000 infections per day. It is gone down now over 20 percent or more, down to somewhere in the 50,000 per day. And as we get more and more people vaccinated, it’s going to go down to 40 and then 30 and then 20. So we don’t know what this number is of what percent people vaccinated is going to be. But we do know something for sure, Meghna. And that is: the more people you get vaccinated, the closer and closer you get to getting control in the community, which is the reason why we so strongly recommend and plead with people to get vaccinated, not only for their own protection, but for that of their family and for the community.”
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How to Stay Safe Until This Pandemic is Over
So follow Fauci’s fundamentals and help end this pandemic, no matter where you live—wear a face mask that fits snugly and is double layered, 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, get vaccinated when it becomes available to you, and to protect your health, don’t miss these Signs You’re Getting One of the “Most Deadly” Cancers.