Correction: An earlier version of this story misquoted Fauci as saying “pandemic stage” instead of “pandemic phase.”
(NewsNation) — Dr. Anthony Fauci changed his tune on the US position on the pandemic, retracting comments he made Tuesday that the US was “out of the pandemic phase,” saying that on Wednesday “by no means” the pandemic was over.
The nation’s top immunologist said Tuesday that the country has finally passed the pandemic stage after more than two years, pointing to the current rates of infection, hospitalization and death of the American population from COVID-19.
“We are certainly now in this country outside of the pandemic phase,” Fauci said, speaking with Judy Woodruff of PBS news hour.
Fauci later retracted his comments on Wednesday, saying “we’re at a different time in the pandemic.”
“Now we have slowed down and moved into a more controlled phase,” Fauci told The Associated Press. “In no way does that mean the pandemic is over.”
His comments came a day after he told PBS “NewsHour” that the United States was “out of the pandemic phase” and also told The Washington Post that the country was finally “out of the full-blown explosive pandemic phase.” .
Fauci cautioned, however, that vaccines, one of the most effective tools against serious infection and disease, remain essential to keep the country from going backwards, but he couldn’t say how often America would need to be boosted.
“That could be every year, it could be longer, to keep that level down. But, right now, we are not in the pandemic phase in this country,” he said Tuesday.
That is not to say that infections are not continuing, or even increasing, in some parts of the country. On the same day as Fauci’s interview with PBS, the US recorded nearly 50,000 new COVID-19 infections and more than 300 deaths, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Fauci, like most health experts, also believes the number of infections is being underestimated, with infected people experiencing mild or no symptoms, or simply not reporting positive tests.
He also told Woodruff that, on a global scale, the pandemic is still raging.
Fauci’s comments come amid CDC estimates that more than half of the US has signs of prior COVID-19 infection, including approximately 75% of children, probably due to the omicron variant plus infections. The research referred to data obtained between December 2021 and February 2022, during which the CDC noted a significant increase in evidence of prior infection.
“I expected it to increase. I didn’t expect it to get that high,” she told Dr. Kristie Clarke, co-leader of a CDC team tracking the extent of coronavirus infections. Associated Press.
Fauci, meanwhile, told Woodruff that he was “not too surprised” by these findings, but did note a silver lining to the CDC investigation.
“If you add up the people who have been infected, plus the people who have been vaccinated and hopefully boosted, you have a pretty substantial proportion of the population of the United States that has some degree of immunity…” he said.
Correction: An earlier version of this story misquoted Dr. Fauci as saying “pandemic stage” instead of “pandemic phase.”