For sixteen months, the Biden administration has sent mixed messages on the pandemic, thanks in large part to Anthony Fauci. Now Fauci seems to be confused all on his own, trying to get out in front of public opinion but clearly not convinced by it. Last night, Fauci declared that the US had finally moved “out of the pandemic phase,” which to most normal people would mean getting back to life as usual:
— PBS NewsHour (@NewsHour) April 26, 2022
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.”
Furthermore, Fauci told PBS host Judy Woodruff, “we aren’t going to eradicate this disease.” The focus should just be on managing hospital resources, vaccinations, and production of therapeutics. In this country, anyway, we’re already doing that. Even with CDC data still counting correlative diagnoses rather than causative admissions and deaths from COVID-19, correlated deaths have declined 36% over the last two weeks while correlated admissions are still flat at 5 per 100,000. The supposedly dire superspreader outbreak from the Gridiron Dinner fizzled without any reports of severe acute cases or even much in terms of symptomatic illnesses, in large part because the variants now circulating are a lot less likely to produce severe outcomes.
Why? In large part because the COVID-19 virus is no longer a novel organism. The CDC announced yesterday that it estimates most Americans have now been exposed to it, meaning we are much more capable of mounting an immune response to it:
The common perception that nearly everyone in America seemed to have been infected with the Omicron variant last winter may not have been far from the truth. By February 2022, nearly 60 percent of the population had been exposed to the coronavirus, almost double the proportion seen in December 2021, according to data released on Tuesday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“By February 2022, evidence of previous Covid-19 infections substantially increased among every age group,” Dr. Kristie Clarke, the agency researcher who led the study, said at a news briefing.
Infections rose most sharply during the Omicron surge among children and adolescents, perhaps because many people in those age groups were still unvaccinated. The increase was smallest among adults 65 or older, who have the highest rate of vaccination and may be the most likely to take precautions.
The new research suggests that three out of four children and adolescents in the United States had been exposed to the coronavirus by February 2022, compared with one-third of older adults.
The CDC also estimates that 66% of all Americans have been fully vaccinated, including 76% of the adult population and 90% of seniors. The estimate for boosters is 49% of adults and 68% of seniors. If we overlay the exposure estimates for children and adults on top of this, we end up with the assumption that the virus is no longer novel at all in the US.
So it’s over, right? Not for Dr. Fauci, who doesn’t want to put his money where his mask is when it comes to the White House Correspondents Association Dinner:
The nation’s top doctor will no longer be attending the White House Correspondents Association Dinner this Saturday. Dr. Anthony Fauci had been invited to attend as a guest of ABC News and had planned on going, sources familiar with the matter told Kaitlan Collins and me. But he recently decided to abandon those plans and inform ABC that he would no longer attend because of an individual assessment of his own personal risk, the sources said. Fauci’s decision comes amid concerns that the event could become a superspreader like the annual Gridiron Dinner held weeks ago, even though the WHCA is taking all the expected Covid precautions. Fauci’s decision also comes as the omicron sub-variant sweeps the nation…
> What about POTUS? President Biden still plans on attending the dinner, Jen Psaki said in the briefing room Tuesday…
Presumably, Fauci has gotten vaccinated and boosted at least once, and maybe twice by now. Cases in DC have risen 45%, but from a pandemic low; the rate of infection is still only 17 per 100K, not far from the 14/100K rate for the US that Fauci just hailed with Woodruff. DC deaths correlated to (but not necessarily caused by) a COVID-19 diagnosis are down 39% and are at 0.05/100K, less than half the national rate of 0.11/100K.
Does this sound like a man who’s driven by science?
On the other hand, as David Axelrod points out, perhaps the better question is why people keep going to Nerd Prom in the first place:
“Well, there is a question of whether it’s EVER appropriate to engage in an exercise in gaudy, celebrity-drenched self-adulation,” David Axelrod, a Democratic strategist who served as a senior adviser to former President Barack Obama, wrote in an email, “but that’s a separate question.”
However, Mr. Axelrod added, “The country plainly is eager to move on and people are regularly gathering in public places — stadiums, theaters, restaurants — and, as a political matter, I’m sure the president is eager to embrace the sense that the siege is largely behind us.”
Too bad his NIAID chief still wants to cling to the siege mentality. Even when the science clearly indicates otherwise.