Dr. Anthony Fauci said Thursday that public health measures aimed at preventing the spread of COVID-19 are as important as ever with the detection of two cases of a new variant of the virus in California and Colorado.
During an interview on “Today,” the head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases said it was inevitable that the new variant, the spread of which was announced in the United Kingdom earlier in December, would emerge in the United States.
British scientists and officials have said the new variant appears to spread more easily and efficiently, which Fauci said “needs to be taken seriously.”
“The good news is that it does not appear to be more virulent, namely, making people more sick and leading to more deaths,” Fauci said Thursday. “So that is a good thing. Obviously, we don’t want to see a virus that has a greater capability of spreading. The other thing that is important and a favorable thing is that it does not seem to evade the protection that’s afforded by vaccines that are currently being used.”
The scientist said he expects more cases of the variant to be detected and reported in Colorado, California, and elsewhere in the country.
“This just underscores the need to continue to put our foot to the floor and the pedal about making sure we do the public health measures that we talk about all the time,” Fauci said. “The wearing of masks, the physical distancing, the avoiding crowds and congregate settings. Those are the kind of things that will prevent this new strain from spreading even further.”
During his interview, the leading public health expert also addressed the rollout of COVID-19 vaccines in the United States, which have fallen far short of the goal of 20 million doses by the end of 2020.
Not meeting the projected 20 million doses is “disappointing,” Fauci said.
“Hopefully as you get into the first couple of weeks in January, the gaining of momentum will get us to the point where we want to be, but there really has to be a lot more effort in the sense of resources for the locals, namely, the states, the cities, the counties — the places where the vaccine is actually going into the arms of individuals,” Fauci said. “You have to support the local groups — the states and the cities — to help them to get this task done, which is a very prodigious task.”