Fauci warns progress in COVID fight appears to have stalled

He advised against easing restrictions until case numbers are much lower.

February 26, 2021, 4:33 PM

At the White House COVID response team briefing Friday, top U.S. health officials warned that recent progress in declining case numbers appears to have stalled and that restrictions shouldn’t be eased until the U.S. baseline is much lower.

Numbers have fallen precipitously since early January, but the seven-day case average still hovers around 70,000.

That rivals last year’s summer peak and threatens to push the U.S. in the wrong direction.

"Certainly, 70,000 is not there. Not even close," said Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert. "You've got to get way down in test positivity at the same time that you scale up the vaccine."

National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Director Dr. Anthony Fauci addresses reporters at the White House on Jan. 21, 2021.
Jonathan Ernst/Reuters

Fauci said he wants to see where the numbers go in the next week or so before advising people to loosen restrictions.

Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, agreed.

"The latest data suggests that these declines may be stalling, potentially leveling off and (at) still a very high number," she said. "We at CDC consider this a very concerning shift in the trajectory."

"We may be done with the virus, but the virus is not done with us. We cannot get comfortable or give into a false sense of security that the worst of the pandemic is behind us," she said.

Fauci says the next week or so will be critical.

"We don't want to be people always looking at the dark side of things, but you want to be realistic," he said. "So, we have to carefully look at what happens over the next week or so with those numbers, before you start making the understandable need to relax on certain restrictions. So, just watch it closely and be prepared to react according to what actually happens."

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