ABC 10News Exclusive: One-on-One With Dr. Fauci

Nation's top doc discusses Pandemic at 2-year mark
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Posted at 5:37 PM, Mar 16, 2022
and last updated 2022-03-16 21:18:34-04

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) — For two years, he's been the face of the COVID-19 pandemic response in the US, for better or worse.

Now, as the country passes the two-year mark since the CDC declared COVID-19 an official pandemic, Dr. Anthony Fauci says the toll it has taken on Americans is "devastating."

"No one, in their wildest dreams, two years ago today, would have predicted that we have close to a million deaths in this country alone, and six or so million deaths worldwide," he says. "It never would have been imagined that we would have such a devastating impact of this virus."

The latest CDC data says the US is at 963,244 deaths and 79.4 million cases.

But, Fauci points out the number of cases, hospitalizations, and deaths have been declining since the peak of the most recent Omicron surge.

In an exclusive, one-on-one interview with ABC 10News Reporter Jared Aarons, he says the declines give him hope, even as the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases keeps an eye on the new BA.2 sub-variant of Omicron, also called "Stealth Omicron."

That variant has fueled a surge of cases in the UK and Europe. Meanwhile, wastewater testing in the US shows its presence increasing along the East Coast and throughout the Midwest.

"I would expect that we might see an uptick in cases here in the United States," he says. "Over the coming weeks, it will become more dominant (than Omicron)."

A week ago, Fauci says, the BA.2 variant accounted for 11% of the sequenced positive cases in the US. Now, that number is closer to 25-26%.

"It's more likely to transmit," Dr. Fauci says. "The somewhat encouraging news is that BA.2 variant doesn't appear to make the disease any more severe than BA.1 (Omicron) and doesn't seem to evade immune responses any more than BA.1."

Dr. Fauci adds if cases begin to surge again in the US, we may have to go back to mitigation strategies like masking indoors.

He says the CDC's new guidelines allow for that.

"We have to be careful that if we do see a surge as a result of that, that we're flexible enough to re-institute the kinds of interventions that could be necessary to stop an additional surge."

When Aarons asked Dr. Fauci about booster shots, he said older Americans and people who are immuno-compromised will "likely" need a 4th shot. But, he says there is no need for variant-specific boosters, as the original vaccine is still doing a good job preventing hospitalizations and deaths.

"It's holding pretty strong at around 78% efficacy against hospitalization," he says. "But if it goes any lower than that, you certainly would consider the possibility of a 4th dose boost."

And, like he's done for more than a year, Dr. Fauci stressed the need for everyone to get a vaccine and a booster shot once their eligible. He says that's the only way we'll beat COVID and end the pandemic.