Story at a glance
- Anthony Fauci discusses reopening and vaccines in a podcast interview.
- He notes that while small towns may not feel the effects from the coronavirus, outbreaks are still possible.
As the nation still reels from the coronavirus crisis, and with many states along the Sun Belt seeing an alarming uptick in cases, Anthony Fauci — director of the National Institute for Infectious Diseases (NIAID) and a key member of the White House coronavirus task force — is reflecting on the future of the disease, his professional experience amid the outbreak and the balance of keeping cases down while returning to pre-pandemic normal.
Speaking to Wendy Zukerman, an Australian science journalist, on her podcast "Science Vs," Fauci acknowledged his “considerable concern” at the start of the pandemic over how the crisis evolved through community spread. Fauci said he was struck by how transmissible and varying the coronavirus became.
“I’ve never seen anything closely resemble the virus in the spectrum of what it can do,” he said, referring to the wide range of symptoms that vary between each individual infected.
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He reiterated that young people — who are becoming more involved in the spread of the virus — are increasingly contracting more severe infections. The fact that it is also highly communicable contributes to it being “the perfect storm,” Fauci said.
Regarding the reopening of multiple states, even as new cases mount, Fauci said he stands by the need to implement lockdowns but noted the economic hardship inherent to mitigating the virus’s spread. While he said it “would have been nice” to have more tests earlier on, the shutdowns were effective in mitigating new infections.
“When you shut down the planet for a considerable period of time, you create such stress of the system from an economic standpoint, other health issues that come up when you’re locked down,” he explained. Fauci also acknowledged how there is no uniform impact of the virus.
“The impact on a region, it varies. New York got hit with an explosive outbreak...through no fault of their own. They have things that propagate spread,” Fauci said, referring to the city's massive population in close quarters.
But while some less populated areas of the country have not been hit with an outbreak seen in the country’s major cities, Fauci underscored the need for continued protection and vigilance.
“In those places, if they did not lock down, they may have seen an outbreak, and we’re seeing evidence of that right now,” he said.
Fauci was referring to some Sun Belt states like Arizona, Florida and Texas, which did not have a mass outbreak at the onset of the pandemic the way New York City and San Francisco saw.
“Viruses don’t stop at a small town,” Fauci added.
A complete reopening appears to hinge on the successful development of a vaccine, which has been fast-tracked to clinical trials at an unprecedented rate. And while a vaccine arriving by fall is ambitious, Fauci didn't rule it out entirely, though predicted to see results in late 2020 to early 2021.
“If you are saying we will have one by December, January, February, I’d say it’s much more likely that we will have one that would be shown and proven to be safe and effective,” Fauci said.
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