Anthony Fauci: COVID-19 cases dropping, but mutations make him wary

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Dr. Anthony Fauci said Thursday he thinks a recent slowdown in coronavirus cases is “real” but he’s worried about a relapse as mutated versions spread.

Newly reported cases have dropped from around 250,000 per day a week and a half ago to 200,000 today, so transmission “might actually be plateauing,” Dr. Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told White House reporters.

However, “it’s still at a very high rate,” he said.

Dr. Fauci said it is common for viruses to mutate but some strains can be problematic.

A strain from the U.K. seems to be twice as transmissible but not any more virulent. Still, more cases spells more trouble.

“We shouldn’t be lulled into complacency about that,” Dr. Fauci said.

Also, the doctor is concerned that monoclonal antibody treatments will be less effective on the South Africa strain.

He said vaccines should still be effective against the new strains but it is possible the South Africa strain could diminish the shots’ impact to a degree. 

The strain hasn’t been detected in the U.S. but it might be lurking in the shadows, since American scientists haven’t sequenced the virus aggressively.

Dr. Fauci said existing vaccines will still have a positive impact, statistically, on replication of the virus and, if necessary, can be modified in the worst-case scenario.

The doctor has become a household name over the course of the pandemic, though clashed with President Trump at times. He said he will continue to try and give the unvarnished truth based on available data.

“That’s why I got in trouble sometimes,” he said.

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