Despite a recent decline in COVID-19 cases for the fifth straight week, the US is preparing to mark a half million deaths this week, nearly a year after the coronavirus pandemic upended the country with dueling public health and economic crises.
“It’s nothing like we’ve ever been through in the last 102 years since the 1918 influenza pandemic… It really is a terrible situation that we’ve been through – and that we’re still going through,” Dr. Anthony Fauci, White House COVID-19 medical adviser and the nation’s top infectious disease official, told CNN’s “State of the Union” program on Sunday.
More than 28 million COVID cases have rocked the United States and 497,862 have died, even as daily average deaths and hospitalizations have fallen to the lowest levels since before the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays. The virus took a full year off the average life expectancy in the US, the biggest decline since World War Two.
While the decline “is really terrific … we are still at a level that’s very high,” Fauci said. “We want to get that baseline really, really, really low before we start thinking that we’re out of the woods.”
Fauci told CNN that Americans may still need masks in 2022 even as other measures to stop the virus’ spread become increasingly relaxed and more vaccines are administered, and they may need a booster shot depending on how variants emerge.
Less than 15 percent of the US population has received at least one vaccine dose, with nearly 43 million getting at least one shot and nearly 18 million getting a second shot, US statistics show.
Meanwhile, more localities are easing some restrictions, such as on indoor dining, and moving to reopen schools even as millions await their shots, sparking debate over the safety of teachers, students and others.