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On April 27, 2022 — almost 2.5 years after the start of the COVID-19 outbreak that killed nearly 1 million Americans — numerous media outlets claimed that Dr. Anthony Fauci, the country’s top infectious disease expert, had said the country was “out of the pandemic phase.”
The alleged quote led to headlines including Vanity Fair’s, “Fauci: The United States is ‘Out of the Full-blown Explosive Pandemic Phase‘” and The New York Post’s, “US out of the ‘pandemic phase’ of COVID-19, Dr. Anthony Fauci says,” and others, such as with The Associated Press, CNN, NBC News, The Hill, The Washington Post and NPR.
It was true that Fauci made the remark on the PBS “NewsHour” show with anchor Judy Woodruff the day prior. However, his comments to journalists afterwards — which we detail below — provided important context to explain what he intended to communicate with the headline-inspiring statement.
First, to confirm that Fauci had indeed said the U.S. is “out of the pandemic phase” verbatim on PBS, we reviewed a transcript, a video, and an audio recording of the roughly seven-minute interview available on the news outlet’s website.
Speaking to Woodruff through a video screen, Fauci indeed said those words, pointing to the U.S.’s daily average number of new COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations, and deaths to substantiate the remark. The moment in question happened around the six-minute mark of the interview, unfolding like this:
Woodruff: Here we are. It’s the end of April. It’s the spring of 2022. How close are we to the end of this pandemic?
Fauci: Well, that’s an unanswerable question, for the following reason. And I don’t want to be evasive about it, but let me tell you why I’m giving you that answer, Judy.
We are certainly right now in this country out of the pandemic phase. Namely, we don’t have 900,000 new infections a day and tens and tens and tens of thousands of hospitalizations and thousands of deaths. We are at a low level right now.
So, if you’re saying, are we out of the pandemic phase in this country, we are. What we hope to do, I don’t believe — and I have spoken about this widely — we’re not going to eradicate this virus. If we can keep that level very low, and intermittently vaccinate people — and I don’t know how often that would have to be, Judy.
That might be every year, that might be longer, in order to keep that level low. But, right now, we are not in the pandemic phase in this country. Pandemic means a widespread, throughout the world, infection that spreads rapidly among people.
So, if you look at the global situation, there’s no doubt this pandemic is still ongoing.
In other words, while Fauci said the in-question statement, he also explained in the PBS interview that “we’re not going to eradicate this virus” completely, but rather public health agencies should work to keep transmission rates “very low” and “intermittently vaccinate people.” He said he did not know how often, when, or to whom they would recommend those additional vaccines.
Furthermore, in comments to journalists after the PBS appearance, Fauci clarified what he meant: Instead of a “full-blown explosive pandemic phase” (i.e., the omicron surge), America was in a transition period of COVID-19 becoming an endemic disease, or one that occurs regularly in certain regions according to established patterns, as reported by The Washington Post and The Associated Press.
Put another way, in late 2021 and early 2022, the country was in an “acute” and “accelerated” phase, seeing case numbers spike nationwide, according to an interview between Fauci and CBS after the PBS segment.
However, as of late April 2022, he said the U.S. was seeing a slowdown in the number of new cases daily, or operating in a “deceleration” phase, and heading toward a “controlled” status. That latter category includes diseases such as the seasonal flu and common cold.
“We’re really in a transitional phase, from a deceleration of the numbers into hopefully a more controlled phase and endemicity,” Fauci told The Washington Post, emphasizing how the U.S. could still see an increase in infections with this status.
“We certainly cannot say the pandemic is over,” Fauci told CBS. “It is not over.”
‘Dr. Fauci on Why the U.S. Is “out of the Pandemic Phase”’. PBS NewsHour, 26 Apr. 2022, https://www.pbs.org/newshour/show/dr-fauci-on-why-the-u-s-is-out-of-the-pandemic-phase-2.
‘Fauci: “Pandemic Phase” over for US, but COVID-19 Still Here’. AP NEWS, 27 Apr. 2022, https://apnews.com/article/covid-health-pandemics-infectious-diseases-united-states-b7fbd92253900045321878d97b8e1b89.
Fauci Won’t Attend White House Correspondents’ Dinner, Says Pandemic ‘Is Not Over’. https://www.cbsnews.com/news/fauci-white-house-correspondents-dinner-covid-19-pandemic/. Accessed 27 Apr. 2022.
‘Fauci Says There Are 5 Stages of the COVID Pandemic—and We Are Still in Phase 1’. Fortune, https://fortune.com/2022/01/18/fauci-covid-pandemic-five-stages/. Accessed 27 Apr. 2022.