It’s been nearly one year since the realities of the COVID-19 pandemic began to hit home for many Americans.
On March 11, Dr. Anthony Fauci — then the mostly anonymous head of the National Institute for Allergies and Infectious Diseases — testified on Capitol Hill that the pandemic was about “to get worse.”
That evening, within hours, President Donald Trump announced a shutdown of travel between the U.S. and Europe, the NBA suspended its season after several players tested positive for the virus and movie stars Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson announced they had contracted COVID-19.
Since then, about 28 million Americans are confirmed to have contracted the virus and more than half a million have died — statistics Dr. Anthony Fauci said he would “have never have imagined” a year ago.
“The thought that you would have 525,000 people in America to have died and about 28 million infections in this country would’ve really been unimaginable,” Fauci said during an interview on CNN on Tuesday. “This virus has been a really formidable enemy if you want to be metaphorical about it. It’s just extraordinary.”
Fauci added that conditions are trending in the right direction. But he urged Americans to be vigilant, as the decrease in the spread in the virus has slowed slightly in recent weeks. As of Wednesday, Johns Hopkins reports that the country was averaging about 50,000 new cases each day.
“We hope that it continues to come down, but the deflection of the curve which is sharply going down is starting to plateau a bit, so we have to keep an eye out on it,” Fauci said. “That doesn’t mean, you know, getting very discouraged about it. Keep going in the right direction. Keep making step by step to some form of normality. But it’s got to be slow improvement.”
While Fauci says it’s still impossible to tell when the U.S. can get back to normalcy, he said that widespread vaccinations will be vital in fighting back against the virus.
“Once you get a substantial portion of the population vaccinated, that is a very, very strong defense against there being another surge,” Fauci said.
He noted that there will be enough vaccinations available by May to vaccinate all Americans. At that point, Fauci said the country will face the logistical challenges in “getting vaccines in arms.”
Finally, Fauci issued a warning to students who are preparing for spring break, and urged them to avoid travel to and to “remain prudent” in the hopes of avoiding a fourth surge in cases.
“We want people to have a good time on spring break, but don’t put your guard down completely. Just be prudent a bit longer,” Fauci said. “We’re going in the right direction, we’re almost there. I mean, spring break is a classic time — as we all know, we’ve probably all been through it in school — but we’ve just got to really be careful this time. Be prudent.”