Dr. Anthony Fauci seemed perplexed during an interview Tuesday as to why COVID-positive cases are bottoming out in Texas after Gov. Greg Abbott lifted all pandemic-related restrictions last week.
Fauci, who is the top medical adviser to the Biden administration as well as the country’s lead immunologist, told MSNBC’s Willie Geist that the drop in cases following last month’s action by Abbott is “confusing.”
“There was a lot of concern last month when Texas effectively opened up, dropped all of those restrictions and said, it’s back to life and if you go to Texas, as you know, it looks like 2019,” Geist said as he began the segment. “The restaurants and bars are full and open. The ballparks are full. And yet, we’ve seen cases and hospitalizations since then continue to tick downward. So what do you make of that, as all of us look around and try to consider how safe it is to get back to normal life?”
“Yeah, you know, it can be confusing,” Fauci began. “Because you may see a lag and a delay because often, you have to wait a few weeks before you see the effect of what you’re doing right now.”
Continuing, he said that there could be a lot of variants to explain why cases are declining.
“There are a lot of things that go into that. When you say that they’ve had a lot of the activity … outside, like ball games, I’m not really quite sure. It could be they’re doing things outdoor. It’s very difficult to one on one compare that,” he said.
“You just have to see in the long-range. I hope they continue to tick down. If they do, that would be great. But there’s always the concern, when you pull back on methods, particularly on things like indoor dining and bars that are crowded, you can see a delay, and then all of a sudden tick right back up,” the nation’s lead immunologist continued.
“We’ve been fooled before by situations where people begin to open back up, nothing happens, and all of a sudden, several weeks later, things start exploding on you. So we’ve got to be careful we don’t prematurely judge that.”
Abbott issued his executive order reopening the state 100 percent March 2 while acknowledging that the virus was still active.
“Make no mistake, COVID-19 has not disappeared, but it is clear from the recoveries, vaccinations, reduced hospitalizations, and safe practices that Texans are using that state mandates are no longer needed,” he said in a statement.
“Today’s announcement does not abandon safe practices that Texans have mastered over the past year. Instead, it is a reminder that each person has a role to play in their own personal safety and the safety of others. With this executive order, we are ensuring that all businesses and families in Texas have the freedom to determine their own destiny,” he added.
Democrats blasted the decision, with California Gov. Gavin Newsom, who said his administration is “a little more mindful and sober of the potency of these variants and mutations as well.”
President Joe Biden, meanwhile, called Abbott’s decision “Neanderthal thinking” and predicted that cases would spike again.
But they didn’t. By late March, in fact, new cases had fallen to their lowest seven-day total since Texas health officials began tracking them.
“We also recorded the largest daily number of vaccines administered to Texans: 342,849. More Texans getting vaccines will keep down the positivity rate,” Abbott wrote on Twitter.