Dr. Anthony Fauci said Monday that Americans should begin seeing a turning point in the COVID-19 pandemic "within a few weeks."
Fauci, the White House chief medical advisor, spoke during a virtual forum hosted by the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. He made his projection based on the current daily average of 3 million vaccines administered.
"Literally within a few weeks, we're going to start to see a turning around of the dynamics,” Fauci said. "Not down to no infections. If you’re waiting for classic measles-like herd immunity, that’s going to be a while before we get there.
"But that doesn’t mean we’re not going to have a significant diminution in the number of infections per day, and a significant diminution in all of the parameters, namely hospitalizations and deaths."
The U.S. reported a 7-day average of 58,164 new COVID cases as of Sunday – a 14% decrease from a week earlier – according to a CNBC analysis of data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.
About 94.7 million people, 28.5% of the U.S. population, have been fully vaccinated, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. More than 139 million Americans, 42.2% of the population, had received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine as of Sunday.
While Americans have been asked to get vaccinated as quickly as possible, new, highly contagious variants are spreading.
The B.1.1.7 variant, which appears to be more deadly and spread more easily than other strains, now is the most common COVID strain in the country, according to the CDC earlier this month.
That variant, first identified in the United Kingdom, worries health officials that it could stall progress made on the pandemic.
Coronavirus has killed nearly 573,000 Americans in a little more than a year.
The Biden administration has embarked on a massive campaign to encourage more Americans, particularly young people, to get vaccinated. In some parts of the U.S., supply has begun to outpace demand.
Fauci has said the goal is to vaccinate roughly 232 million to 281 million people — between 70% and 85% of the population — to achieve herd immunity and suppress the pandemic.
However, Fauci on Monday said herd immunity was a "moving target."
"We don’t know what the durability of the infection-induced immunity is," he said. "We don’t know if someone who got infected last winter or in the early part of 2020 is going to be safe from a protected standpoint now."
Fauci said the focus should be on getting as many Americans vaccinated as possible.
On Sunday, Fauci told ABC News' "This Week" that the CDC might be updating guidance for mask-wearing in outdoor spaces soon.
He said the move is "common sense" as the evidence shows that "outdoor risk is really, really quite low." For vaccinated people wearing masks outdoors, "the risk is minuscule," he said.
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