Dr. Fauci Says It’s Time to ‘Inch’ Back to Normality. Is He Right?

Dr. Fauci Says It’s Time to ‘Inch’ Back to Normality. Is He Right?

by Sue Jones
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Considering we’re nearly two years into a global pandemic, it’s no wonder that so many people are craving a return to normality, or at least, a new kind of normal. And now, President Biden’s chief medical adviser, Anthony Fauci, M.D., has said that it might be time to take steps toward that reality. But what might that look like? And what does that mean for the many health experts, scientists, and other people in the U.S. who feel it may be too soon? 

“The fact that the world and the United States—and particularly certain parts of the United States—are just up to here with COVID—they just really need to somehow get their life back,” Dr. Fauci, who is director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said in an interview with Reuters on Thursday. “You don’t want to be reckless and throw everything aside, but you’ve got to start inching towards that.” Dr. Fauci has long been the face of the White House’s COVID-19 Response Team. Given this, Dr. Fauci tempered his optimism with a level of pragmatism. “There is no perfect solution to this,” he said.

His comments are in response to the significant drop in COVID-19 cases in the U.S. as the omicron variant recedes. On February 17, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s seven-day moving average of new cases was 112,653, compared with just a month prior, when the seven-day moving average of new cases reached 745,358 on January 17. Dr. Fauci’s remarks also followed many state officials easing mask mandates and preparing new, revised COVID-19 guidance. In recent weeks, U.S. states including New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Delaware, California, and Oregon announced they were dropping mask mandates for schools and other indoor public spaces over the next month. “Is the impact on mental health, is the impact on development of kids, is the impact on schools—is that balanced against trying to be totally pristine and protecting against infection? I don’t have the right answer to that,” Dr. Fauci acknowledged.

One state looking to move forward by treating the virus as a manageable risk, rather than continuing in formulating emergency responses, is California. Governor Gavin Newsom announced official plans on Thursday to transition into approaching SARS-CoV-2 as an endemic virus rather than as a pandemic, becoming the first in the nation to do so, according to The Washington Post. The new phase would mean formally acknowledging that COVID-19 is part of our lives and isn’t going anywhere, which echoes Dr. Fauci’s sentiment that there is no “perfect solution” to the pandemic. California’s governor said state health officials will turn their focus to preventing future outbreaks and stockpiling of tests and equipment, instead of future shutdowns and mask mandates. 

“We are moving past the crisis phase into a phase where we will work to live with this virus,” Governor Gavin Newsom said during the news conference where he announced the plan, according to ABC. The governor summarized the new plans using the acronym “SMARTER,” which stands for shots, masks, awareness, readiness, testing, education, and Rx, which points to improving COVID treatments and medications. In terms of specific goals, the state of California aims to stockpile 75 million masks and improve health infrastructure so that 200,000 vaccinations can be given each day, as well as 500,000 tests.

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