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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 Stephanopoulos 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 Trump’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.

Tags ABC This Week COVID-19 Donald Trump Francis Collins George Stephanopoulos George Stephanopoulos United States responses to the COVID-19 pandemic
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