As epidemiologists everywhere have struggled to come up with an explanation, it's worth noting that Texans are dining out more, according to Opentable seatings, which have become a closely watched proxy for post-quarantine economic activity.
As experts have struggled to come up with a satisfying answer, Dr. Fauci was asked about the phenomenon during an interview on MSNBC Tuesday morning as the senior advisor to President Biden made the rounds. As MSNBC noted, "if you go to Texas...it looks like 2019... the restaurants are full...the ballparks are full..." and yet, cases have continued to tick downward.
Dr. Fauci seemed dumbfounded. He first suggested that the surge in cases simply hadn't manifested yet because of a "lag". That might have made sense if the trend had only been in place for a week or two. But a month has passed, and Texas' positivity rate - the share of new tests that yield positive results, seen as a more accurate representation of community spread - has continued to fall.
"It can be confusing because you may see a lag or a delay, because often you have to wait a few weeks...there's a lot of things that go into that," Dr. Fauci said.
"I'm not really sure, it could be because they're doing things outdoors, you know it's very difficult to just one-on-one compare that...I hope they continue to tick down, if they do that would be great. But there's always the concern that when you pull back on methods, particularly things like indoor dining, or bars that are crowded...you could see a delay, then all of a sudden cases tick back up."
"We've been fooled before with places opening up, then nothing happens, but all of a sudden a few weeks later cases explode on you."
He concluded by saying "we've got to be careful we don't prematurely judge" the situation in Texas.
For those who haven't been closely following the situation in Texas, 26 days have passed since the state "reopened 100%" with no mask mandate, and 34 days have passed since Gov. Abbott announced the reopening. The number of new cases, deaths, hospitalizations ICU occupancy and positivity rate have all fallen.
The doctor then speculated that last night's packed Texas Rangers game might be a "super-spreader event" (like Sturgis? ... or The Super Bowl party in Miami?).
Dr. Fauci has already rejected the CDC Director Walensky's "impending doom" rhetoric, and on Tuesday, he told CNBC that "as long as we keep vaccinating people efficiently and effectively, I don't think [a fourth wave] is gonna happen."
However, "that doesn't mean we're not going to still see an increase in cases."
Meanwhile, the White House announced Tuesday that it's moving up its target date for all American adults to be eligible to receive a vaccine to April 19, two weeks earlier than its prior stated goal. Already, the government has doled out nearly 150M doses.