Dr. Anthony Fauci warned Sunday that the coronavirus pandemic is now “going in the wrong direction” in the United States because too many Americans are still choosing not to get vaccinated.
Asked on CNN’s “State of the Union” program about projections in recent statistical models that COVID-19 cases and deaths could surge in the coming months if vaccination rates don’t increase, Fauci said “it’s not going to be good.”
With about half of Americans not yet vaccinated and the fast-spreading delta variant circulating, Fauci and a range of current and former health officials Sunday expressed exasperation at the situation and vigorously pressed the case that vaccination is the best and most effective way to stem the tide of COVID cases.
“It is really a pandemic among the unvaccinated,” Fauci said, adding, “It’s like you have two kinds of America. You have the very vulnerable unvaccinated part and you have the really relatively protected vaccinated part. If you are vaccinated, you are in a very different category than someone who is not vaccinated.”
The situation is so dire that in recent days, even some Republican governors in low-vaccination states have been pointedly exhorting people to get a COVID vaccine.
On Sunday on CNN, Gov. Asa Hutchinson of Arkansas said that, with the new school year on the horizon, “this is a pivotal moment in our race against the COVID virus,” adding that “what’s holding us back is a low vaccination rate.”
Hutchinson, a Republican, said he has been holding town halls recently, which he credited for a 40% increase in vaccination. Still he added that “certainly the resistance has hardened” among some people. “It’s simply false information,” he said. “It is myths.”
On CBS’s “Face the Nation,” Dr. Jerome Adams, surgeon general in the Trump administration, also encouraged vaccination, casting the decision in patriotic terms. “Get vaccinated because it’s going to help every single American enjoy the freedoms that we want to return to,” he said.
Adams said some people still have legitimate questions about getting vaccinated, including workers who worry post-vaccine side effects might cause them to miss a day of work or a paycheck. He predicted immunization rates would increase once the vaccines — currently available under emergency-use authorization from the Food and Drug Administration — become fully licensed. That will probably prompt the military and some businesses to mandate vaccination for service members and employees, he said.
In the meantime, Adams said the message should be “It is your choice, but choices come with consequences to you and other people,” including children not yet old enough for vaccination and people who are medically vulnerable.
Several current and former officials discussed whether recommendations or mandates for wearing masks should be reinstated.
Fauci said the Biden administration is considering reissuing stronger mask-wearing guidelines. In May, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention relaxed its guidance, saying that people who are fully vaccinated do not need to wear a mask in most indoor settings.
Adams said “that guidance, quite frankly, has confused citizens, it’s frustrated businesses and public health officials who I continue to hear from, and it’s been, by any qualification, a failure.”
He said the CDC should state clearly that even people who are vaccinated should wear masks if they are in public, around people whose vaccination status is unclear or in a community where COVID cases are increasing.
“The CDC needs to give those businesses, those health officials a little bit of cover by clarifying the guidance that they have out there,” Adams said.