Dr. Anthony Fauci on Monday said that a drop in Covid-19 cases and hospitalizations in most of the country cannot likely be attributed to vaccines, meaning people should continue to be as cautious as possible.
"I don’t think the dynamics of what we’re seeing now with the plateauing is significantly influenced, yet — it will be soon — but yet by the vaccine," Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said on NBC's "TODAY" show.
The chief medical adviser to the president said the drop was more likely due to a natural plateauing of cases following a spike after the holiday season.
"We don't want to get complacent and think ... 'Oh, things are going in the right direction, we can pull back a bit, because we do have circulating in the country a variant from the U.K. that's in over 20 states right now," Fauci said, pointing out that the variant is more easily transmitted from person to person.
He also said that, while not official, preliminary data shows the United Kingdom variant to be more deadly. "I'm pretty convinced there is a degree of increase in seriousness of the actual infection," he said.
Vaccines, though, should be effective against the U.K. strain and a new South African strain. But scientists are prepared and "already taking steps" to upgrade the vaccines as "things continue to evolve," Fauci said.
A recently announced travel ban preventing most non-U.S. citizens from entry if they have recently been in South Africa that President Joe Biden plans to sign Monday is "very prudent," Fauci said. He added that those coming into the country will have to have a Covid-19 test before they board a plane to the U.S. and people must quarantine when they arrive.
When asked about the method of "double-masking," he encouraged it. "You put another layer on, it just makes common sense that it would be more effective," he said.