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It can be hard to understand the exact danger of the coronavirus right now. The headlines say cases are peaking in some states and that Omicron is "less severe" than Delta—that sounds like good news. On the other hand, hospitals are filled with a record number of people who have COVID, and we are seeing tons of deaths—that's obviously bad news. So how can you stay safe? Dr. Anthony Fauci, the chief medical advisor to the President and the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, appeared this morning with MSNBC's Stephanie Ruhle to discuss just that. Read on for 5 life-saving pieces of advice—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had COVID.
Dr. Fauci Said Omicron Has Peaked "In Certain Regions of the Country" But We Still Have a Ton of Cases and Deaths
Omicron has "certainly reached this peak in certain regions of the country," said Dr. Fauci. "If you look at the Northeast, epitomized by New York City, Chicago, and then the Upper Middle West with Chicago, it certainly has reached the point where it's turning around and cases are coming down. However, in some of the Southern states and the Western states, it has not yet peaked and it's either continuing to go up or leveling off, which is the first step towards getting to that peak and turning around. I believe that in the next few weeks we will see as a country that it is all turning around right now. The net effect, if you look at it, even though we still have close to 700,000 cases a day, and we have about 150,000 people in the hospital, and about 2,000 deaths in general, it is starting to turn around and I believe you are going to see that going in that direction over the next couple of weeks."
This is When We Could Return to Normal, Says Dr. Fauci
"There's a best case scenario and a worst case scenario," said Dr. Fauci. "So we're all hoping for the best case scenario. And that is that we are heading in the direction if things hold true, that Omicron does what we're seeing it's doing. Namely, it had a big burst of infections, peaked and is starting to come down….Particularly in the Northeast and the Upper Middle West, by the time we get to the next few weeks or so, if we get the entire country down to a level that is a level of control, that's acceptable control. And let me explain what I mean. Unacceptable control: That is when you have 150,000 people in the hospital and you have 2,000 deaths per day and 700,000 new cases" like we have now. "Acceptable control is when the level of infection, but particularly, and more importantly, the level of severe disease that would lead to hospitalization essentially is integrated into the general burden that you have of infectious diseases, particularly during the winter months, for example, with respiratory" viruses, "parainfluenza, and even influenza. If we get there, which I hope we do, and I believe we can, then you're gonna start talking about looking at some real returning to the kind of normality that we're all craving today. We're not there. Will we be there soon? I believe so." However, there is one wild card that could ruin everything: Read on.
Dr. Fauci Said This is the Wild Card That Could Lead to a Worst Case Scenario
"The only wild card in all of this, which leads to the possibility of a worst case scenario is as we get down to that level, all of a sudden we get surprised by a new variant that actually has a greater degree of transmissibility and is also serious," warned Dr. Fauci. "How can we mitigate against that? We have the tools now, some of which we didn't have a short while ago, we certainly have terrific vaccines. And as we know, from the data from the CDC, just over this last few days, boosting individuals makes a major positive impact in protecting you against severe disease, even with Omicron. So you wanna make sure we get as many people vaccinated. Now that major numbers of tests are gonna be available to the tune of a half a billion soon and another half a billion thereafter, we've gotta integrate testing into that. So, you know, who is infected, who might be transmitting it to others? So a combination of vaccination, testing and putting important antiviral drugs, which we're gonna get a lot more supply of, particularly drugs like Paxlovid, which are very, very effective in preventing the progression to severe disease. If we have all of those things in place, even with a new variant, we may be able to have that integration into some form of normality."
Dr. Fauci Said Get Boosted to Stay Protected
Dr. Fauci wants you to understand "this issue of what fully vaccinated means versus when you're optimally protected. So if I were vaccinated right now, when I decided I wanted to get vaccinated and I got my primary, let's say I got an mRNA and three to four weeks later, I get my second shot two weeks to a month after that, I will be fully protected, no doubt. However, as four or five months go by the protection will wane, which means you absolutely need a booster. …So the boost is necessary. It's not necessary one month after the original vaccination, but as you get out to five months, the protection waned, that's what you mean by keeping up to date, to be optimally vaccinated and optimally protected."
Dr. Fauci Said This to Anti-Vaxxers
When it comes to misinformation, Dr. Fauci says the amount of people hoodwinked by it—"it's really very disturbing." Ruhle asked about anti-vaxxers. "I mean, obviously there has always been a smaller element of people who for one reason or other were inherently against vaccination," said Dr. Fauci. "But when you have vaccines that have now been given to billions of people throughout the world, in which clinical trials and real world evidence have shown that they are highly effective, particularly against severe disease, hospitalization and deaths, the numbers are incontrovertible. If you look at the charts of people who've been hospitalized and dying and compare it between unvaccinated people and vaccinated people, particularly those who've been boosted, the gap between the two are stunning in the sense of the risk among people who are unvaccinated. And yet you have the misinformation and the disinformation…."
How to Stay Safe Out There
Follow the public health fundamentals and help end this pandemic, no matter where you live—get vaccinated or boosted ASAP; if you live in an area with low vaccination rates, wear an N95 face mask, don't travel, social distance, avoid large crowds, don't go indoors with people you're not sheltering with (especially in bars), practice good hand hygiene, and to protect your life and the lives of others, don't visit any of these 35 Places You're Most Likely to Catch COVID.