Oct. 4 (UPI) — Dr. Anthony Fauci on Sunday said many of the milestone 700,000 U.S. COVID-19 deaths were “avoidable” as he urged the millions of unvaccinated Americans to get protected against the virus.
Appearing on CNN’s “State of the Union,” Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said that he hoped the grim milestone would encourage the 70 million Americans who have not been vaccinated to “utilize” the tool to prevent further deaths.
“Obviously because of the enormity of the challenge of this outbreak and the extraordinary virus that spread so rapidly, many of those deaths were unavoidable, but many are avoidable, were avoidable, and will in the future be avoidable,” said Fauci. “The number itself is staggering … but hopefully that will then spur us to realize that we do have interventions, in the form of a vaccine to prevent infection, to prevent severe disease, to prevent death.”
Meanwhile, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Data shows that 75.8% of eligible Americans ages 12 and older have received at least one vaccine dose, while 65.4% are fully vaccinated.
The Food and Drug Administration on Sept. 22 approved a third booster dose for the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine for people older than 65 as well as people ages 18-64 who are at high risk of severe COVID-19 and who face frequent institutional or occupational exposure to COVID-19.
A total of 5.29 million people, or 2.9% of fully vaccinated people, have received a booster dose, according to the CDC.
A total of 15 states, however, have yet to fully vaccinate more than half of their residents, including Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, West Virginia and Wyoming.
Despite the milestone deaths, the CDC reported a seven-day average of 8,321 new COVID-19 hospitalizations from Sept. 22-28, down 14.9% from Sept. 15-21.
The Department of Health and Human Services also reported that 66,151 ICU beds were in use, representing 78.29% of beds at 6,178 reporting hospitals.
According to the HHS Idaho, Wyoming, West Virginia and Georgia are all using more than 40% of their hospital ICU beds for COVID-19 patients.
The number of those hospitalized in the United States with coronavirus was 71,325, or 9.32% of total 783,163 bed capacity.
On Friday, pharmaceutical company Merck announced it was seeking FDA approval for an emergency use authorization for an anti-coronavirus drug that reduced hospitalizations by nearly 50% in clinical trials.
Fauci on Sunday said the development of the drug was “extremely important” but asserted its presence was not a replacement for getting vaccinated.
“It is never OK to get infected. You heard the numbers. It decreased the risk of hospitalizations and deaths by 50%. You know the way to decrease the risk by 100%? Don’t get infected in the first place.”