- The US has likely missed its chance to rid itself of COVID-19, Surgeon General Vivek Murthy said.
- "Success does not equal no cases," Murthy told Politico, as ICUs across the country run low on beds.
- Vaccination continues to be the best way to keep people alive and out of the hospital, he said.
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COVID-19 is unlikely to be going away completely, US Surgeon General Vivek Murthy said in an interview with Politico.
Although the US has missed the opportunity to totally eradicate the disease, he said people can still take steps to keep the situation from getting worse.
"It is really important that we convey that success does not equal no cases," Murthy said. "Success looks like very few people in the hospital and very few dying."
Murthy's remarks come as many hospitals across the US report having zero ICU bed capacity remaining, with several treating nearly twice as many ICU patients as they have room for.
The continued increase in COVID-19 cases over Labor Day weekend forced many Americans to change or cancel plans, bringing what began as an optimistic summer to an end on a decidedly somber note.
"This is obviously a very difficult part of the pandemic," Murthy said.
Murthy also pointed out that the situation is particularly dire in areas of the country that have lower vaccination rates and compliance with mask-wearing guidance.
"This is the dichotomy developing," he said. "It's almost like living in two different Americas."
Murthy also said that vaccinated people tend to overestimate the danger posed by the coronavirus Delta variant, and that unvaccinated people tend to underestimate the risk.
Guidance from the US Centers for Disease Control says that unvaccinated patients with the Delta variant are more likely to be hospitalized than with earlier strains, while vaccinated patients with breakthrough cases have been far less likely to require hospitalization.
Simply put: vaccines work, Murthy said.
Over the weekend, Director of the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases Dr. Anthony Fauci told CNN that hospitals in some areas are "perilously close" to having to choose who gets potentially lifesaving medical treatment.
The public health agency in Austin, Texas, said the 11 counties around that city have run out of ICU beds as Delta variant cases surge there.
"We have vaccines that are safe and effective in protecting people who are fully vaccinated from severe illness and death," the agency said in a statement. "Each of us has the responsibility to keep our community safe."