WASHINGTON — Dr. Anthony Fauci is calling the United States’ approaching milestone of half a million deaths from the coronavirus as “terribly historic” and stressed the need for continuing public health measures.
Fauci says with virus infections overall going down and vaccinations continuing things are improving but that the U.S. remains in a “terrible situation” and people should remain mindful of wearing masks and keeping social distance.
Currently there are over 498,000 deaths from the coronavirus in the U.S., as of Sunday as compiled by Johns Hopkins University. That's roughly the population of Kansas City, Missouri, and just shy of the size of Atlanta.
The first known deaths from the virus in the U.S. were in early February 2020 in California. The death toll reached 400,000 on Jan. 19 in the waning hours in office for President Donald Trump.
Fauci, who is President Joe Biden’s chief medical adviser, said he expects a “significant degree of normality” in everyday life toward the end of the year but that it was “possible” people will still need to be wearing masks into 2022.
He says ultimately it will depend on the trajectory of COVID-19 variants as well as whether an “overwhelming majority” of people get vaccinated. Fauci says he wants to see infections get to a “very, very low” baseline before backing off recommendations to wear a mask, when the risk of exposure to someone with COVID-19 has become minimal.
Fauci spoke on CNN’s “State of the Union” and NBC’s “Meet the Press.”
Most patients with COVID-19 have mild to moderate symptoms. However, in a small proportion of patients, COVID-19 can lead to more severe illness, including death, particularly among those who are older or those who have chronic medical conditions.
COVID-19 spreads primarily through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes.
Symptoms include fever, cough, and difficulty breathing. Symptoms appear within 14 days of being exposed to an infectious person.
Virginia health officials urged the following precautions:
- Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
- Use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer only if soap and water are not available.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or your sleeve (not your hands) when coughing or sneezing.
- Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.
- Stay home when you are sick.
- Avoid contact with sick people.
- Avoid non-essential travel.