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President Trump passes Dr. Anthony Fauci after a coronavirus task force briefing on March 26. Photo: Jonathan Ernst/Reuters

Dr. Anthony Fauci has long cited 60% to 70% as the level of COVID infection/vaccination the country would need to achieve herd immunity — for the disease to fade and life to return to normal, writes the New York Times' Donald G. McNeil Jr.

But, but, but: "About a month ago, he began saying '70, 75 percent' in television interviews. And last week, in an interview with CNBC News, he said '75, 80, 85 percent' and '75 to 80-plus percent,'" McNeil writes.

What's new: "In a telephone interview," McNeil continues, "Fauci acknowledged that he had slowly but deliberately been moving the goalposts."

  • "He is doing so, he said, partly based on new science, and partly on his gut feeling that the country is finally ready to hear what he really thinks."

Fauci's confession:

"When polls said only about half of all Americans would take a vaccine, I was saying herd immunity would take 70 to 75 percent ... Then, when newer surveys said 60 percent or more would take it, I thought, "I can nudge this up a bit," so I went to 80, 85. We need to have some humility here .... We really don’t know what the real number is. I think the real range is somewhere between 70 to 90 percent. But, I'm not going to say 90 percent."

Go deeper: Keep reading McNeil's "How Much Herd Immunity Is Enough?" (subscription.)

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Go deeper

Jan 29, 2021 - Health

WHO says most pregnant women can now receive coronavirus vaccine

A doctor administering Moderna's coronavirus vaccine at a university hospital in Essen, Germany, on Jan. 18. Photo: Lukas Schulze/Getty Images

The World Health Organization has altered its guidance for pregnant women who wish to receive the coronavirus vaccine, saying now that those at high risk of exposure to the COVID-19 or who have comorbidities that increase their risk of severe disease, may be vaccinated.

Why it matters: The WHO drew backlash for its previous guidance that did not recommend pregnant women be inoculated with vaccines made by Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna, even though data indicated that pregnancy increased the risk of developing severe illness from the virus.

Jan 29, 2021 - World

EU grants conditional approval of AstraZeneca vaccine

Photo: Sunil Ghosh/Hindustan Times via Getty Images

The European Commission on Friday granted conditional approval of the Oxford-AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine for people 18 years and older.

Why it matters: This is the third vaccine to receive approval from the commission, coming hours after the Emergency Medicines Agency recommended its authorization.

Jan 29, 2021 - Health

NYC set to restart indoor dining in February, weddings in March

Outdoor dining in New York City in January. Photo: Alexi Rosenfeld/Getty Images

Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Friday that if the current coronavirus positivity in New York City holds, indoor dining will reopen at 25% capacity on Feb. 14, one of the busiest dining days of the year.

Why it matters: The forced closure of indoor dining in December caused major backlash, as New York's struggling restaurant industry had already been hit hard by pandemic restrictions. Restaurants will still be required to close at 1o p.m.