LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (KARK) — On Thursday, Dr. Anthony Fauci shared his thoughts on the new vaccination strategy outlined by President Joe Biden and the delta variant during an interview with Nexstar’s KARK in Arkansas.
That strategy, part of which calls for new Occupational Safety and Health Administration rules directing companies with 100 or more employees to either require vaccinations or weekly COVID-19 tests, drew swift opposition from federal and state GOP leaders.
Fauci said he would appeal to those lawmakers to consider just why the president is making such a proposal, noting that we are now experiencing a “pandemic of the unvaccinated” and saying that the government has taken many steps to overcome vaccine hesitancy.
“We have tried everything we can to get people to voluntarily get vaccinated. We’ve made it as easy as it can be,” he said. “It’s available, it’s convenient, it’s safe, it works and it’s free, and yet there are still about 75 million people in the United States who are eligible to be vaccinated who have not gotten vaccinated.”
He also said that he hoped lawmakers in states such as Arkansas, where the mandates were met with immediate criticism, would “understand and appreciate” the moves Biden was making in order to “keep the citizens of Arkansas safe not only for themselves but for their family and for their entire career.”
Fauci noted how part of the recently announced plan from the Biden administration to address the surging pandemic would bring in military medical response teams to help health care workers facing extreme burnout from being on the front lines of this fight for the last 18 months.
One of the major changes with the delta variant of COVID-19 has been the increase in deaths and hospitalizations among younger people. Arkansas hit a new record this week for the number of school districts being listed in high infection zones, with neighboring Mississippi tallying more than 18,800 positive cases among schoolchildren since the year started in August, according to health officials, a number greater than last year’s totals. In states such as Florida and Texas, school districts wishing to make masks mandatory to protect children and teachers face opposition from local politicians seeking to ban any mask directive.
Fauci said the challenges facing local leaders around returning to school have been tough but added that the best way to keep kids safe as they go back to class is to surround them with people who have been vaccinated, like teachers, school staff and older students.
Finally, Fauci was questioned about a report this week that claimed funding from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases provided federal funding to research the coronavirus in a lab in Wuhan.
“The research that was done was to be able to get information to help protect us from future pandemics cause it was done at a time following SARS CoV-1, which you’ll remember was a pandemic in 2002,” Fauci said.
Fauci said the research was well regulated and had nothing to do with SARS CoV-2.
“People are inappropriately trying to connect one with the other,” Fauci said, calling the report “misleading.”