Fauci says US is out of coronavirus ‘pandemic phase’

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The United States is finally “out of the pandemic phase,” the country’s top infectious-disease expert said Tuesday, as cases and hospitalizations are notably down and mask mandates are all but gone.

While infections are still spreading – with an average of over 50,000 new cases per day as of Tuesday – the country is far from the peaks of the pandemic, when daily counts surpassed 1 million. Restrictions, too, are easing as many Americans appear to be putting the pandemic behind them. Masking requirements have been lifted across most of the country, and officials stopped enforcing a federal mask mandate in transportation settings after a judge struck down the requirement.

“We are certainly right now in this country out of the pandemic phase,” Anthony S. Fauci, President Biden’s chief medical adviser, said Tuesday on PBS’s “NewsHour.”

Fauci said the United States was no longer seeing “tens and tens and tens of thousands of hospitalizations and thousands of deaths. We are at a low level right now. ”

During the pandemic’s darkest moments, many wondered when the country would be able to declare itself past the disaster, which has killed nearly 1 million Americans.

Fauci’s comments are likely to fuel debate about whether this is truly the moment: New cases are on the rise in the United States, and deaths are down, though they often lag behind spikes in infections. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Tuesday that as of the end of February, nearly 60 percent of Americans – including 3 out of every 4 children – have been infected with the coronavirus. But officials cautioned that the data did not indicate that Americans have widespread immunity against the virus because of their prior infections.

While previous infections are believed to offer some protection against serious disease for most people, health experts say the best protection against infection and serious disease or death is vaccination.

Coronavirus has infected majority of Americans, blood tests indicate

The coronavirus will not be eradicated, Fauci said, but can be handled if its level of spread is kept “very low” and people are “intermittently” vaccinated, though he said he did not know how frequently that would have to happen. And he echoed warnings from the World Health Organization and the United Nations this month that worldwide, the pandemic is far from over as vaccination rates remain too low, particularly in developing nations.

The Biden administration, meanwhile, is appealing a ruling by a Trump-appointed judge that struck down the federal transportation mask mandate, including on plans, though even if successful, the effort would face an American public that could be unwilling to comply again.

And in a reminder that the coronavirus is still hanging around, the White House on Tuesday arguably announced the nation’s highest-profile coronavirus infection since President Donald Trump’s in 2020, saying that Vice President Harris had tested positive and was asymptomatic. She was not considered a close contact to Biden, the White House said.

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