After weeks of record-breaking COVID numbers across the U.S., data is finally showing that our national spike might be slowing down as a subtle national decline in new cases and hospitalizations is taking shape. But while it may be encouraging to see figures headed in the right direction, the pandemic itself is far from over, warns Anthony Fauci, MD. The chief medical adviser to President Joe Biden is advising that the one thing you shouldn’t do right now is become “complacent” or start letting your guard down about COVID just yet. Read on to see why the nation’s top infectious disease expert feels this way, and for more warnings to be aware of, check out Moderna’s Chief Medical Officer Just Gave This Upsetting Update.
New strains of COVID could mean more trouble ahead.
After the collective toll that weeks of skyrocketing numbers took on the U.S., seeing new cases slowly taper off may have you breathing a sigh of relief. But during an interview with Savannah Guthrie on NBC’s Today on Jan. 25, Fauci warned that assuming the worst has already passed would be a dangerous mistake to make. “We don’t want to get complacent and think, ‘Oh, things are going in the right direction, we can pull back a bit,’ because we do have circulating in the country a variant from the U.K. that’s in over 20 states right now,” he said. Fauci pointed out that the highly contagious strain could easily bring back another surge in cases, ultimately resulting in more hospitalizations and deaths in its wake. And for more on where the strain is thus far, check out The U.K. COVID Strain Is Now in These States.
The new strains might be more deadly than originally thought.
While many medical experts and officials have theorized that the rapidly spreading U.K. strain was more contagious, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson fueled many people’s worst fears during a Jan. 22 news briefing by announcing that the U.K. variant “may [also] be associated with a higher degree of mortality.” Fauci shared in his concern on Today, saying, “I’m pretty convinced there is a degree of increase in seriousness of the actual infection.”
But that wasn’t the only mutation that was causing Fauci concern: he also called the recently discovered South African variant “more ominous,” citing early-phase laboratory studies that found that current monoclonal antibody treatments aren’t as effective against it.
Fortunately, he also told reporters on Jan. 21 that while there is “a very slight, modest diminution” of the effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccines against the new strains, “there’s enough cushion with the vaccines that we have that we still consider them to be effective” against both the U.K. and South African variants. And for more vaccine news, see how The FDA Just Changed Its Stance on This COVID Vaccine Precaution.
The recent dip in cases isn’t because of vaccinations.
Even though health experts are confident that the highly effective vaccines currently being rolled out will help bring an end to the pandemic, Fauci is less convinced that the current drop in cases has to do with the small number of doses that have been administered. Instead, he believes we’re witnessing “natural peaking and then plateauing” of a massive surge in cases that was generated by a sharp increase in travel and indoor gatherings over the holiday season.
“I don’t think the dynamics of what we’re seeing now with the plateauing is significantly influenced, yet—it will be soon—but yet by the vaccine,” Fauci admitted. “I just think it’s the natural course of plateauing.” And for more regular COVID news sent right to your inbox, sign up for our daily newsletter.
You can protect yourself by double masking.
Fortunately, Fauci is also confident that there is still plenty that we can do to keep ourselves safe in the coming days—especially by using the same tactics that have been recommended since the beginning of the pandemic. When asked whether “double-masking” was a useful way to protect against infection, he supported the approach, telling Today: “If you have a physical covering with one layer, you put another layer on. It just makes common sense that it likely would be more effective.” And for more on the kinds of PPE you shouldn’t be using, check out The CDC Warns Against Using These 6 Face Masks.