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Coronavirus

Fauci says COVID-19's intensity 'unacceptably high' after Biden declares pandemic over

In stark contrast to President Joe Biden's declaration over the weekend that the "pandemic is over," Dr. Anthony Fauci said on Monday that the intensity of the COVID-19 outbreak is "unacceptably high."

The remark from Biden's chief medical adviser came during an event hosted by the Center for Strategic and International Studies. However, he acknowledged during the online discussion that in the United States, the pandemic could have been "much, much worse."

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"Now, for sure the intensity of the outbreak now, even though it is, I believe, unacceptably high, where we’re having 400 deaths per day — when you compare it to the fulminant stages we’ve experienced over the past year or so where we used to have 800,000 to 900,000 cases per day and over 3,000 deaths per day, we are much better off now," Fauci told J. Stephen Morrison, senior vice president and director of the Global Health Policy Center at CSIS.

"But we are not where we need to be if we’re going to be able to, quote, 'live with the virus' because we know we’re not going to eradicate it," Fauci added, explaining that smallpox is the only virus in human history that has been eradicated and that the coronavirus behaves much differently.

Fauci's concerns about the virus seem to diverge from Biden's comments on CBS's 60 Minutes on Sunday. During the interview, Biden was asked by host Scott Pelley if "the pandemic is over," to which the president responded that he believed it was.

"The pandemic is over. We still have a problem with COVID. We're still doing a lotta work on it. It's — but the pandemic is over. If you notice, no one's wearing masks. Everybody seems to be in pretty good shape," Biden said.

Fauci pointed to the variants and subvariants of COVID-19 that have developed since the start of the pandemic and future variants as part of the difficulty in bringing "an end to the pandemic."

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"We still must be aware of how unusual this virus is and continues to be in its ability to evolve into new variants, which defy the standard public health mechanisms of addressing an outbreak where you would expect it that once a certain number of people get infected and/or get vaccinated that you could, essentially, bring an end to the pandemic component of the outbreak," Fauci said.

Fauci revealed in August that he will step down from his positions as director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, chief of the NIAID's Laboratory of Immunoregulation, and chief medical adviser to Biden at the end of the year.