Dr. Anthony Fauci says we're "racing" to stop another COVID-19 surge

In an interview, President Joe Biden's chief medical adviser warns of an impending surge in cases

By Matthew Rozsa

Staff Writer

Published April 8, 2021 4:04PM (EDT)

Anthony Fauci | COVID-19 (Photo illustration by Salon/Getty Images)
Anthony Fauci | COVID-19 (Photo illustration by Salon/Getty Images)

In an interview, President Joe Biden's chief medical advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci issued a dire warning to the American people: Don't celebrate the end of the COVID-19 pandemic just yet. Another surge could happen if we're not careful.

Speaking with CNN's Anderson Cooper on Wednesday, Fauci expressed concern about the fact that public health officials have not seen a continued and significant decrease in infections, with Johns Hopkins University reporting more than 61,000 new cases on that day alone. (COVID-19 was also the third leading cause of death in the United States in 2020.) 

Fauci characterized the state of the COVID-19 pandemic as "a race between getting people vaccinated and this surge that seems to want to increase." He particularly noted a rise in cases among young people, which he attributed to a number of factors — including that elderly Americans are more likely to have been vaccinated; the reopening of facilities like daycares and school sporting events; and the prevalence of one particular coronavirus variant in the United States.

That variant, known as B.1.1.7, originated in the United Kingdom, is known to be more transmissible than other coronavirus strains and is suspected of also being more deadly. That strain is now the most common coronavirus variant in the United States, which makes it all the more urgent for as many Americans to get vaccinated as possible. Fauci is not alone among American public health officials who have expressed concern that if the rate of vaccinations does not keep up with the spread of mutant viruses, some of the progress we've made in fighting the pandemic could be reversed.

"I'm going to reflect on the recurring feeling I have of impending doom," Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), told reporters at a press conference last month. "We have so much to look forward to. So much promise and potential of where we are and so much reason for hope. But right now I'm scared."

Walensky added that she was alarmed at how Republican governors in states like Texas, Mississippi and Alabama have been rolling back or entirely doing away with COVID-19 restrictions. Earlier this month, after the CDC announced that COVID-19 was the third main cause of US deaths in 2020, Walensky told journalists that "the data should serve again as a catalyst for each of us to continue to do our part to drive down cases and reduce the spread of COVID-19 and get people vaccinated as quickly as possible."

Fauci made a similar observation to Cooper on Wednesday, arguing that Americans should "hang in there a bit longer" and adding that "now is not the time, as I've said so many times, to declare victory prematurely."

The public health official's recent comments were similar to those that he made about the possibility of a surge during an interview with MSNBC's Joe Scarborough on Tuesday.

"As long as we keep vaccinating people efficiently and effectively, I don't think that's gonna happen," Fauci said at the time. "That doesn't mean that we're not going to still see an increase in cases."

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By Matthew Rozsa

Matthew Rozsa is a staff writer at Salon. He received a Master's Degree in History from Rutgers-Newark in 2012 and was awarded a science journalism fellowship from the Metcalf Institute in 2022.

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