Dr. Anthony Fauci used a sports metaphor to express concern on Sunday morning that some states are rushing to end mask mandates and other coronavirus restrictions as cases around the country have plateaued, likening the early reopenings to spiking the “ball on the five-yard line.”
Making the rounds on the Sunday news talk shows, President Joe Biden’s chief medical advisor first told Meet the Press anchor Chuck Todd that Biden’s declaration that every American should be eligible to get vaccinated by May 1 is an “achievable” goal.
“What the president has done is he’s done a number of things, but two major things is he’s gotten us a much larger supply of vaccine,” Fauci said. “He negotiated with Moderna and Pfizer to get an additional 100 million doses each from the companies. We had a contract with J&J to have 100 million doses. We’ve negotiated yet again another contract for an additional 100 million doses. That’s the supply.”
The nation’s top infectious disease expert went on to boast that the nation is currently “at least a couple of months ahead of where we thought we would be” in terms of administering vaccinations, touting the mobilization of community vaccine centers and pharmacies. Through the weekend, over 106 million doses have been administered, including a record 4.6 million on Saturday.
While Fauci was extremely optimistic about the government’s ability to deliver vaccines to the community, he also warned that there was still a chance we could see another surge in cases, especially if governors continue to quickly reverse social distancing guidelines and mandatory mask-wearing.
“The thing that concerns me, because history proves that I should be concerned, is that when you get a plateau at a level around 60,000 new infections per day, there’s always the risk of another surge,” he stated. “And that’s the thing we really want to avoid because we are going in the right direction. That’s why I get so anxious when I hear pulling back completely on public health measures, like saying, ‘No more masks, no nothing like that.’ I mean, that is a risky business when you do that.
The Meet the Press moderator followed up: “When we see Europe on the uptick, we see Italy locking down again, that’s very familiar, sadly. And every time Europe upticked, it was about two or three weeks later, and so would we. How do we make sure that doesn’t happen again?”
Fauci, meanwhile, replied that political leaders need to avoid the urge to say “everything is going great” just because things are currently going in the right direction.
“But once you declare victory, you know, that metaphor that people say, ‘If you’re going for a touchdown, don’t spike the ball on the five-yard line. Wait until you get into the end zone,’” he added. “And we’re not in the end zone yet. And that’s one of the issues that when you plateau, there’s always the risk of a surge. That’s exactly what the Europeans have experienced.”
The NBC News anchor then asked Fauci about a recent poll that shows 47 percent of Trump voters say they will not get vaccinated, wondering aloud if former President Donald Trump needs to publicly speak out and urge his followers to get a shot.
“I hope he does,” Fauci replied. “The numbers that you gave are so disturbing, how such a large proportion of a certain group of people would not want to get vaccinated, merely because of political considerations. It makes absolutely no sense.”