White House chief medical adviser Dr. Anthony Fauci, the Biden and Trump administrations' leading voice during the pandemic, said Tuesday that he does not anticipate another major surge of COVID-19 cases in the United States.
"I would not be surprised at all, if we do see somewhat of an uptick," Fauci said during a Washington Post live event. "The extent of it and the degree to which it impacts seriousness of disease like hospitalizations and death remains to be seen. I don't really see, unless something changes dramatically, that there would be a major surge."
Fauci made those comments in answer to a question about whether the emergence of the BA.2 Omicron subvariant in the U.K. and other parts of Europe would cause a viral surge in the United States. He said that the U.S. has generally followed patterns observed across the sea, and that the increasing dominance of the BA.2 variant, loosening restrictions on face-masks, and waning immunity are all factors America has in common with Europe.
"What the UK is not seeing‑‑and that's the good news‑‑is an increase of severity or an increase in the use of intensive care unit beds or an increase in the all‑cause mortality, which means that despite the fact that there are cases going up, there does not appear to be any increase in the degree of severity of the outbreak," Fauci said. "So, hopefully, when we do‑‑and I think it will be that we do‑‑see an uptick, hopefully, it won't be accompanied by an increase in hospitalizations, but it just remains to be seen."
When asked whether policy makers would have the political will to reimpose coronavirus restrictions if that became necessary, Fauci gave a candid answer, predicting there would be resistance.
"I don't think there's much stomach for people to all of a sudden turn around, even if there is an uptick. I think that the desire to continue to go along in a way that is normal, as it were, I think there's going to be a lot of inertia, if not active pushback in people. If it is required to increase or go back to some of the mitigation, I think it's going to be a tough time convincing people to do that."
He added that the government may try to appeal to people who are at "high-risk" from the virus to be "prudent" and follow the Center for Disease Control and Prevention's recommendations in the event of another surge.
"But that's all hypothesis. We don't know. Hopefully, we will not be put into that position, but if we are, we should be willing to and flexible enough to respond," Fauci said.
Still, that does not mean the pandemic is over, according to Fauci.
“We can’t claim absolute victory at this point. They’re still viral dynamics. We still have a highly transmissible virus among us, particularly the BA.2 which has a greater degree of transmissibility than an already highly transmissible BA.1, which is the original omicron. So the advice is proceed with life as normally as you possibly can, but be prepared that we might need to make modifications if things change,” Fauci said.
He also called on Congress to be prepared to pass additional COVID-19 relief and funding that will "prepare us for the next challenge."
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has made known her desire for Congress to pass an additional $45 billion for oral antiviral treatments, monoclonal antibody therapies and other pre-exposure prophylaxis, COVID-19 testing programs, new vaccine research, and global vaccination programs.