Monday, Jul 04, 2022

Covid-19 Becoming Endemic In US, Pandemic Phase Over: Top Biden Advisor Dr Fauci

Dr Fauci said while the worst phase of the pandemic appears to be behind them, the threat of Covid-19 is not over for the country.

Dr Anthony Fauci AP

Top US infectious disease expert Dr Anthony Fauci sait on Tuesday that the United States is now “out of the pandemic phase” when it comes to new Covid-19 infections, hospitalisations, and deaths, and it appears to be making a transition to the endemic phase of the disease. 

Dr Fauci, the chief medical adviser to President Joe Biden, said on PBS Newshour program that while the worst phase of the pandemic appears to be behind them, the threat of Covid-19 is not over for the country.

He said, "Namely, we don't have 9,00,000 new infections a day and tens and tens and tens of thousands of hospitalisations and thousands of deaths. We are at a low level right now.”

The endemic stage of a disease is when it's present in a certain region or population, often at a low level with periods during which it does not affect people at all. The endemic stage (and other stages such as pandemic and epidemic stages) only refer to the spread of the virus and are not associated with severity.

Refer to the non-profit Wellcome Trust's graphic to understand the difference between these terms. 

In comments on Wednesday to The Washington Post, however, Fauci seemed to clarify his earlier remarks, saying that unlike the “full-blown explosive pandemic phase” during the winter's brutal Omicron surge, he was describing what appears to be a period of transition toward Covid-19 becoming an endemic disease.

He told The Post, “The world is still in a pandemic. There's no doubt about that. Don't anybody get any misinterpretation of that. We are still experiencing a pandemic.”

Fauci's comments come as health authorities wrestle with how to keep Covid-19 cases and hospitalisations manageable and learn to live with what's still a mutating and unpredictable virus. The Biden administration has stressed that the nation has more tools — vaccinations, booster shots and medications — to better handle infections than earlier in the pandemic. 

Infections in the United States are far lower than they were in recent months. But health officials are keeping a close eye as highly contagious variants continue to spread. The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says cases have risen about 25 per cent in the past week.

Western experts have been saying for months that Covid-19 is becoming endemic in their part of the world. As more and more people gain immunity against Covid-19, either from previous infections or from vaccines, the hold of Covid-19 will wane from people and places. Countries such as the United States and United Kingdom with high infections and high vaccinations would likely be the first to transition into endemic stage.

Julian Hiscox of University of Liverpool told BBC in January, "We are almost there. It is now the beginning of the end, at least in the UK. I think life in 2022 will be almost back to before the pandemic."

(With AP inputs)