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The United States is out of the COVID-19 pandemic phase, said Dr. Anthony Fauci, President Joe Biden’s chief medical adviser and the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.
“We are certainly, right now, in this country, out of the pandemic phase,” Fauci said on PBS NewsHour Tuesday.
“Namely, we don’t have 900,000 new infections a day and tens and tens and tens of thousands of hospitalizations and thousands of deaths. We are at a low level right now. So, if you’re saying are we out of the pandemic phase in this country? We are.”
COVID-19 cases in the US have tumbled dramatically over the past couple of months as the Omicron wave receded.
But daily cases are still two times higher than they were for most of last summer.
New cases are ticking back up in most states, and hospitalizations have started to rise over the past week too.
Fewer people are dying of COVID-19 now than during most of the pandemic, but with more than 400 deaths a day, the past two months of COVID-19 have been more deadly than most recent flu seasons.
Fauci said that while coronavirus won’t be eradicated, the level of virus in society could be kept very low if people are intermittently vaccinated, possibly every year.
Currently, local health officials on the ground across the US are still working to get more people fully vaccinated and boosted against COVID-19.
The COVID-19 situation in the United States also doesn’t necessarily reflect what’s happening in the rest of the world, Fauci noted.
“Pandemic means a widespread, throughout the world infection that spreads rapidly among people,” Fauci said. “So, if you look at the global situation, there is no doubt this pandemic is still ongoing.”
Shifting out of the pandemic is not language that Lori Tremmel Freeman, chief executive officer of the National Association of County and City Health Officials, has heard in conversations within local health departments, she said on Wednesday.
But there has been a subtle shift on the ground with local health officials now returning some focus to non-COVID areas, such as maternal health, childhood immunizations, tuberculosis, HIV and other public health concerns.
“I think there are subtle shifts being made at the local level health departments to normalize the pandemic response in a way that allows them to get back to the core work of their public health departments,” Freeman said. “But those words that were used about the pandemic ending are not well circulated in the public health area right now.”
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