The current death toll of nearly 499,000 represents more than six average NFL stadiums worth of victims — in the days when carefree crowds could still pack into mass sporting events. Each is a grandparent, parent, son, daughter or sibling taken in a horrendous death toll — the world’s worst in the pandemic — almost equivalent to the combined US losses in two world wars.
“It’s terrible, it’s really horrible,” Fauci, the government’s top infectious diseases specialist, told CNN’s Dana Bash on “State of the Union.”
“People decades from now are going to be talking about this as a terribly historic milestone in the history of this country, to have these many people to have died from a respiratory-borne infection,” Fauci said.
Reasons for hope amid fresh warning signs
Perhaps more than at any previous moment of the current crisis, there are reasons for optimism that even if normality is months away, the hopelessness of the darkest winter in modern American history may be lifting.
Such complications — and a desire to brace the country for the long haul if necessary — are informing a hyper cautious approach from Biden, which in itself contrasts with the misplaced bullishness of the previous White House.
“But I can’t make that commitment to you. There are other strains of the virus. We don’t know what could happen in terms of (vaccine) production rates. Things can change. But we’re doing everything the science has indicated we should do, and people are stepping up.”
Fauci explained Biden’s caution on “State of the Union” when he noted that the President had warned against making projections.
“These are just projections that are estimates and a lot of things can happen to modify that. And that’s the reason why we have got to be careful, because you have variants that you need to deal with. There are so many other things that would make a projection that I give you today, on this Sunday, wind up not being the case six months from now,” Fauci said.
The uncertainty was one reason why Fauci said that it was “possible” mask wearing might still be necessary into 2022, depending on the level of virus that remains in the community over the next year or so.
“When it goes way down, and the overwhelming majority of the people in the population are vaccinated, then I would feel comfortable in saying, we need to pull back on the masks, we don’t need to have masks,” Fauci said.
Three influential medical associations on Sunday issued a warning that despite signs of hope, the challenges from Covid-19 remain serious.
It’s a message that mirrors the White House’s own — cautious optimism but with the knowledge that the pernicious nature of this murderous pandemic, which has consistently busted through projected death tolls and could claim tens of thousands more lives, means that nothing can be taken for granted.