Fauci warns US may have to weather ‘surge upon surge’ ahead of vaccine
The top infectious disease expert in the US has said the country may experience “surge upon surge” of coronavirus over the coming weeks, and he does not expect current recommendations around social distancing to be relaxed before Christmas.
“When you have the kind of inflection that we have, it doesn’t all of a sudden turn around like that,” said Dr Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.
“So clearly, in the next few weeks, we’re going to have the same sort of thing. And perhaps even two or three weeks down the line… we may see a surge upon a surge.”
Dr Fauci also appeared on NBC’s Meet the Press, where he made similar remarks, adding that it’s “not too late” for people travelling back home after the weekend’s Thanksgiving celebration to help stop the spread of the virus by wearing masks, staying distant from others and avoiding large groups of people.
“So we know we can do something about it, particularly now as we get into the colder season and as we approach the Christmas holidays,” he said.
The number of new Covid-19 cases reported in the United States topped 200,000 for the first time on Friday. The highest previous daily count was 196,000 on November 20, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.
Since January, when the first infections were reported in the US, the nation’s total number of cases has surpassed 13 million. More than 265,000 people have died.
Dr Fauci said the arrival of vaccines offers a “light at the end of the tunnel”.
This coming week, the Advisory Committee on Immunisation Practices would meet with the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention to discuss a rollout of the vaccine.
He added that President-elect Joe Biden should focus on distributing vaccines in an “efficient and equitable way”. Dr Fauci also said he planned to push the new administration for a rigorous testing programme.
“We’ve got to go beyond the symptomatic people and get a better understanding of the asymptomatic transmission,” he said.
Healthcare workers will probably be among the first to get the vaccine, and soon.
“We likely, almost certainly, are going to be vaccinating a portion of the individuals in the first priority before the end of December, and then as we get into January and February and March, more and more,” he said.
“So if we can hang together as a country and do these kinds of things to blunt these surges until we get a substantial proportion of the population vaccinated, we can get through this.”
Dr Fauci said he was concern ed about the anti-vaccination movement, but said the Covid jab research process had been “scientifically sound.”
“The process of determining whether it works, whether it’s safe and effective has been independent, by independent bodies, and transparent,” he said.
US Surgeon General Jerome Adams said the federal government hoped to quickly review and approve requests from two drugmakers for emergency approval.
A US Food and Drug Administration advisory committee of outside experts will meet on December 10 to review the Pfizer/BioNTech clinical trial data in public, which could precede rapid approval.
“We, from a federal perspective, have promised and set everything up so we can quickly review those [applications] and hopefully start sending out vaccines within 24 to 48 hours,” Dr Adams said
He expects 40 million vaccine doses to be produced by the end of the year and for most Americans to have access to a vaccine by early in the second quarter of 2021.
He implored Americans to help stop the virus’ spread in the months remaining before a vaccine is widely available by wearing masks and avoiding gatherings.