NIH director remains hopeful on COVID surge but says 'we're paying a terrible price'

NIH director remains hopeful on COVID surge but says 'we're paying a terrible price'
© Greg Nash

Francis Collins, the director of the National Institute of Health (NIH), remained optimistic that the U.S. could effectively combat the latest surge in COVID-19 cases, though he acknowledged that "we're paying a terrible price."

Appearing on ABC's "This Week," Collins told host George StephanopoulosGeorge Robert StephanopoulosSurgeon general: 'Our enemy is the virus. It is not one another' Christie: Biden's new vaccine mandate will 'harden opposition' GOP senator on Texas abortion law: Supreme Court will 'swat it away' when 'it comes to them in an appropriate manner' MORE that the U.S. is currently "failing" in terms of building community-wide immunity. However, he stressed that the U.S. had the tools to combat the virus.

Stephanopoulos noted that former President TrumpDonald TrumpOhio Republican who voted to impeach Trump says he won't seek reelection Youngkin breaks with Trump on whether Democrats will cheat in the Virginia governor's race Trump endorses challenger in Michigan AG race MORE's homeland security adviser Tom Bossert had said he believes the country is past the point of mitigation and the only option left was to deal with the consequences. Collins shot back at this characterization, saying that it was not "entirely" too late and there was still time to get more people vaccinated.

"But, certainly, we are going to have to deal with hospitalizations, all kinds of stresses on the medical care system and unnecessary deaths because of what's already present. But we got to do everything we can to stop that," he said. "And that includes the wearing of masks in places where we can reduce the spread of this very contagious virus."

Stephanopoulos asked if it was now time for more vaccine mandates.

"Yes, I think we ought to use every public health tool we can when people are dying," Collins said, emphasizing that he was approaching the topic as a physician and a scientist and not as a "political person."

"We are on a very steep up swift of that curve and we ought to be thinking of every possible intervention," he said.

During the interview, Collins also said that medical experts do not have "anxieties" about the new variants like delta and Lambda as the vaccine is still effective against them. Collins said experts are worried, however, about a possible variant that is so different from the original SARS-CoV-2 that vaccines will be ineffective against it.