Dr. Anthony Fauci expressed that the threat of a massive outbreak similar to the worst periods of the pandemic seems unlikely, even with the emergence of two novel virus variants.
In a recent interview with the BBC, the past chief medical advisor, often recognized as the government’s leading voice during the pandemic, minimized the risks of the latest strains. He emphasized that a significant portion of the community has adequate immunity, reducing the chance of severe infections.
This comes at a time when some U.S. organizations, including hospitals and universities, have reinstated mask mandates for employees and visitors to combat the spread of the new variants, EG.5 and BA.2.86. This has led to discussions about potential new pandemic-related restrictions.
A representative from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) conveyed to Newsweek that while there are currently no plans to advocate for obligatory mask-wearing, this stance might change if cases surge. They clarified, “The CDC offers recommendations, not mandates, which are dependent on the prevailing situation. Our guidelines may be revised based on ongoing monitoring.”
Yet, Fauci believed that a major increase in hospitalizations due to the virus, similar to past occurrences during the emergence of new strains, is improbable. He mentioned that even though those with immunity might contract the latest circulating variant, over 96% of people have some level of immunity from past infections, vaccinations, or both.
He stated, “In the event of a rise in cases, there will undoubtedly be infections. Some individuals, especially the high-risk groups like the elderly or those with co-existing health issues, may need hospital care or might succumb to the disease. However, I’m skeptical about witnessing the overwhelming hospitalizations and fatalities we’ve experienced previously.”
Fauci acknowledged the unpredictability of the virus but noted that widespread immunity in the community acts as a buffer, even if vulnerable populations face risks.
Data up to August 19 indicated over 15,000 virus related hospitalizations in the U.S., marking a near 19% increase from the prior week. Although hospital admissions have seen a consistent rise since July, they remain considerably below the pandemic’s apex and seem concentrated in specific regions. The maximum weekly hospitalization reached over 150,000 in January 2022, with this year’s peak surpassing 44,000 in early January.
The World Health Organization has labeled the EG.5 variant as posing a minimal public health threat, whereas the CDC believes the BA.2.86 variant has a higher potential to infect those already immune to the virus.