Early this year, as millions of people in the U.S. began to get their COVID vaccinations and we saw case numbers decline, it seemed like the pandemic would soon be in our rearview mirror. However, earlier this summer, the Delta variant set us back and cases started to surge—a trajectory that’s difficult to mitigate since slightly under half of people in the U.S. remain unvaccinated, according to the latest data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). While the situation may seem gloomy now, White House COVID adviser Anthony Fauci, MD, said there’s an end in sight. But his recent prediction about exactly when we would have “control” over the pandemic was off, he said—and now, he’s correcting course.
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During an Aug. 23 interview with NPR, Fauci said, “If all things go the way we want them to go … and we get really the overwhelming majority of the people vaccinated, I think as we get into the fall and the winter, we could start to really get some good control over this as we get into 2022.”
Later than night, CNN anchor Anderson Cooper asked Fauci about his recent COVID prediction that the U.S. could be in bad shape until the end of 2022, which would mean more than another whole year of battling the COVID pandemic. “I have to apologize,” Fauci said when Cooper asked him about the prediction.
He admitted that after reviewing the NPR interview, he realized he had given the wrong timeline. “When I listened to the tape, I meant to say the spring of 2022, so I did misspeak,” he added, before correcting himself. “I hope we could start to get some good control in the spring of 2022. I didn’t mean the fall. I misspoke, my bad.”
When Cooper pressed Fauci about what having “control” of COVID really means, he said having “a degree of overall blanket protection of the community.” He added, “If we can get through this winter and get, really the majority—overwhelming majority—of the 90 million people who have not been vaccinated, vaccinated, I hope we can start to get some good control in the spring of 2022.”
Fauci believes that when we reach the spring, “we could start getting back to a degree of normality, namely resuming the things that we were hoping we could do—restaurants, theaters, that kind of thing.”
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However, Fauci also said that his timeline could be thrown off if not enough people get vaccinated, which could breed more transmissible or dangerous variants, making it harder to contain the spread of COVID. “You have the possibility of the virus continuing to circulate, mutating—forming more variants and getting us back into another situation similar to or worse than Delta,” Fauci told Cooper.
Currently, 60 percent of eligible people in the U.S. (those 12 and older) are fully vaccinated, and 71 percent have one dose, according to the CDC. President Joe Biden had set a goal to have 70 percent of U.S. adults receive at least one dose by July 4, but it wasn’t until recently that the country reached that number.
Despite the question marks looming, Fauci maintains that there is an end to the pandemic on the horizon. While on Today on Aug. 24, he said he believes there’s a light at the end of the tunnel, but exactly when the light comes is “going to totally be up to us.” He reiterated that the solution is getting the “overwhelming majority” of those who haven’t gotten their COVID shots yet vaccinated. “If we do it right and get through the winter, I hope as we get to the spring of 2022, we’ll get there. I hope so. It’s up to us,” he said.
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