Fauci urges caution in lifting restrictions as COVID-19 cases plateaus

National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Director Dr. Anthony Fauci speaks to reporters at the White House on April 16. File Photo by Chris Kleponis/UPI

Feb. 28 (UPI) — On the one-year anniversary of the first COVID-19 death announced in the United States, Dr. Anthony Fauci on Sunday warned governors against prematurely lifting restrictions as the decline in new cases has stalled.

Appearing on CNN’s State of the Union, Fauci — the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases — noted that the rate of new infections has “kind of plateaued” at about 70,000 per day while encouraging state leaders to “look at what history has taught us.”

“If you go back and look at the various surges, whenever we hit a peak and start coming down, understandably, totally understandably, you say, well, let’s pull back,” said Fauci. “We’re going to ultimately be pulling back, but you want to get the level of baseline infections per day very low, because, if you look at that little plateau, particularly in the arena of having variants such as we have in California and such as we have in New York, it is really risky to say it’s over, we’re on the way out, let’s pull back because what we can see is that we turn up.”

The United States reported 68,071 new cases on Saturday, bringing its world-leading total to 28,593,351 infections, according to data gathered by Johns Hopkins University.

Sunday also marked 365 days since the first confirmed COVID-19 death in the United States on Feb. 29, 2020, from Washington state. The United States reported 1,536 new deaths bringing its total to 513,054 since that first death.

Also Sunday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices strongly endorsed the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine for people 18 years and older after the Food and Drug Administration granted it an emergency use authorization.

Fauci told CNN that approval of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine gives the United States “three important tools in our armamentarium of capabilities against the virus.”

The United States has administered 75,236,003 doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna vaccines, both of which require two doses, according to the CDC. To date, 49,772,180 people have received one dose while 24,779,920 have received two.

Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear told CBS News’ Face the Nation Sunday, that he expects the state to become the first to fully vaccinate its educators after moving teachers up to the front of the line to receive the vaccine.

“For us, this was a workforce issue,” Beshear, a Democrat, said. “It was development for our children scholastically, emotionally and socially. And it was about getting back to some form of normal while we are still very careful.”

California, which has also made efforts to give teachers priority to receive the vaccine, reported 4,685 new cases and 158 deaths for totals of 3,475,562 infections and 51,979 fatalities, both the highest in the nation.

Texas ranks second in cases, adding 2,921 to bring its total to 2,287,135. The state also reported 197 new deaths bringing its death toll to 42,936.

Third place Florida added 5,539 new cases and 118 deaths, bringing its totals to 1,909,221 and 30,852 respectively.

New York added 7,580 new cases for the nation’s fourth-highest total at 1,630,445 while adding 90 new fatalities for a death toll of 38,497.

Illinois ranks fifth with 1,186,696 infections reporting 1,249 Sunday, along with 22 deaths for a total of 20,516.


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