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Dr. Fauci Just Gave This Crucial Warning

We're at another confusing point in this pandemic.
FACT CHECKED BY Emilia Paluszek

We're at another confusing point in the COVID-19 pandemic. Cases are rising, thanks to the highly contagious Omicron subvariants, at the same time that precautions are being relaxed nationwide and summer beckons. How should Americans conduct their lives now, and when is it necessary to protect against COVID-19? Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation's top infectious-disease expert, recently appeared on CBS News to give an update on the status of the pandemic and deliver some important advice on when to wear a mask now. Read on to find out more—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had COVID.


Why Are People Still Dying?

Exhausted crying doctor/nurse in coronavirus protective gear N95 mask

Fauci was asked, if death tolls have been trending down and vaccines are available, why are people still dying of COVID? "There are two groups of people that are really accounting for the for the severe disease, hospitalization and death. One group certainly is the unvaccinated because unfortunately in this country, we have a substantial number of people who have not been vaccinated at all," said Fauci. "There are vaccinated people who get infected, some of whom go on to severe disease and death. Those are very heavily weighted towards the elderly and those with underlying conditions, those whose immune system is compromised for one reason or another."


Is COVID Now An Endemic Virus?

sad young female doctor or nurse wearing face protective mask for protection

Asked at what point COVID becomes endemic, "We don't know, because nothing is really certain," said Fauci. "And this virus has fooled us multiple times in the past with the emergence of the Delta variant, and then again, the Omicron variant."

"What we're hoping for is that when the level comes down, it stays in a well-controlled level," he added. "And those people who've been vaccinated and boosted even though they might get infected, they won't get a severe disease that would lead to hospitalization."

"Some people call it a living with the virus, but it really has to be at a low enough level that it doesn't disrupt society the way it has done so dramatically over the past two and a half years," he said.


When Should We Mask In Public?

face mask policy

"There are no hard and fast rules except for the fundamental underlying recommendations that the CDC makes," said Fauci, who referred to the color-coded map the agency maintains on its website; in areas of high transmission, everyone is encouraged to wear a mask in public places. But he did give some personal advice about mask-wearing.

"It's each person, with help from guidelines from the CDC, to make a determination of the level of risk that they're willing to take. So if you go to an event in which it's required that you have vaccination proof—it's required that people show a rapid test within 24 hours or so—that makes the risk very, very low. It isn't zero, but it's very, very low. So under those circumstances, if you're a healthy person, and you don't have someone at home who's at risk, so that if you get infected and you bring it home, that wouldn't be a big problem. You could feel reasonably comfortable without wearing a mask."

However, if you're an elderly person or someone who has an underlying condition—or you live with someone who meets those criteria—you may want to wear a mask, no matter what. "Even though it's not required to wear a mask under the circumstance, I might want to go the extra step to wear a mask not only to protect myself, but to protect those around me, in case I get infected," he said. 


How to Stay Safe Out There


Follow the fundamentals and help end this pandemic, no matter where you live—get vaccinated ASAP; if you live in an area with low vaccination rates, wear an N95 face mask, don't travel, social distance, avoid large crowds, don't go indoors with people you're not sheltering with (especially in bars), practice good hand hygiene, and to protect your life and the lives of others, don't visit any of these 35 Places You're Most Likely to Catch COVID.

Michael Martin
Michael Martin is a New York City-based writer and editor. Read more about Michael