Fauci says U.S. should see a turning point in the pandemic ‘within a few weeks’

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Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Anthony Fauci speaks with Vice President Mike Pence as they participate in a news briefing with member of the White House Coronavirus Task Force in the James S. Brady Press Briefing Room at the White House on Thursday, Nov 19, 2020 in Washington, DC.
Jabin Botsford | The Washington Post | Getty Images

White House chief medical advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci said Monday that Americans should begin to see a turning point in the pandemic “within a few weeks.”

The United States has been averaging about 3 million Covid-19 vaccination shots per day, Fauci said. Meanwhile, the nation reported a seven-day average of 58,164 new Covid cases per day as of Sunday, according to a CNBC analysis of data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. That’s down 14% from a week ago.

If the U.S. continues its vaccination pace, “literally within a few weeks, we’re going to start to see a turning around of the dynamics,” Fauci said Monday during a virtual event hosted by the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

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“Not down to no infections,” he said. “If you’re waiting for classic measles-like herd immunity, that’s going to be a while before we get there. But that doesn’t mean we’re not going to have a significant diminution in the number of infections per day and a significant diminution in all of the parameters, namely hospitalizations and deaths.”

The Biden administration has pushed Americans to get vaccinated as quickly as possible as new, highly contagious variants spread.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said earlier this month that the B.1.1.7 variant, which appears to be more deadly and spread more easily than other strains, is now the most common Covid strain circulating in the U.S.

U.S. health officials say they are concerned the highly contagious variant, first identified in the U.K, could stall the nation’s progress on the pandemic. The outbreak has killed at least 572,287 Americans in a little over a year.

Still, vaccinations are being administered at a rapid pace. More than 139 million Americans, or 42.2% of the total U.S. population, had received at least one dose of a Covid-19 vaccine as of Sunday, according to the CDC. Roughly 94.7 million people, or 28.5% of the population, are fully vaccinated, according to the CDC.

Last week, the Biden administration announced a massive campaign to persuade more Americans, particularly young people, to take the Covid-19 vaccines as supply begins to outpace demand in some parts of the U.S.

Fauci has said the goal is to vaccinate between 70% and 85% of the U.S. population — or roughly 232 million to 281 million people — to achieve herd immunity and suppress the pandemic.

But he said Monday that herd immunity is a “moving target.” The U.S. should just focus on getting as many Americans vaccinated as possible, Fauci said.

“We don’t know what the durability of the infection-induced immunity is. We don’t know if someone who got infected last winter or in the early part of 2020 is going to be safe from a protected standpoint now,” he said.

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