The country is already experiencing record highs in coronavirus hospitalizations, topping 100,000 on Wednesday, with the figure climbing to 100,667 in hospital care as of Dec.3, according to data compiled by the Covid Tracking Project. The U.S. also just broke a new daily death toll at nearly 3,000, and Fauci says Thanksgiving gatherings will only make matters worse.
“So I think we have not yet seen the post-Thanksgiving peak,” Fauci said on the NBC’s TODAY show. “That's the concerning thing, because the numbers in and of themselves are alarming.”
Public health officials are pleading Americans to double down on mask wearing and social distancing, among other measures, ahead of anticipated holiday travel and additional indoor gatherings.
Dr. Robert Redfield, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), just this week said “December and January and February are going to be rough times. I actually believe they're going to be the most difficult time in the public health history of this nation, largely because of the stress that's going to be put on our health care system.”
Redfield projected nearly 450,000 coronavirus-related fatalities in the U.S. before February. (The U.S. reported 276,402 virus-related deaths by Friday morning, per data by Johns Hopkins University.) However, like Redfield, Fauci says public health efforts can begin to disrupt serious consequences.
“I hope that that's not going to happen...It shouldn't be despair where you throw your hands up and say 'it's inevitable, it's going to happen,'” Fauci told NBC, regarding Redfield’s projected figures on mortality. “If you do the fundamental things of public health measures, you can blunt it. And now probably is more than ever to double down on it because vaccines are literally at the threshold.”
The interview occurred shortly after news that Redfield upheld a vote by a panel of independent experts that health care workers and residents of long-term care facilities should be the first to receive the long-awaited coronavirus vaccine.
Fauci echoed this plan during his interview, calling on Americans not to give up.
“We're going to be starting to administer to the higher risk people and to people who are the health care providers in mid and late December,” Fauci said. “And then as we get into January, February and March, more and more people will be able to get vaccinated. So now's the time to hang in there and not give up.”
Aside from Redfield’s nod of approval for vaccine distribution, the plan to allocate the jabs to health care workers and long-term care residents is also dependent on authorization from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which still has to approve an application of emergency use from pharmaceutical giant Pfizer, the first to apply, and biotech company Moderna.
Both companies have developed coronavirus vaccine candidates that have proven over 90% effective in late-stage clinical trials.