Story at a glance

  • The U.S. population showed a consistently higher percentage of people continuing daily activities amid the pandemic as opposed to the populations of Spain and Italy.
  • Fauci warns that risk of spreading the virus could increase in the fall and winter when people spend more time indoors.

Introduced as the “international face of science and truth,” infectious diseases expert Anthony Fauci spoke at the Harvard Medical School’s Grand Rounds webinar Thursday where he traced the scientific evolution of the novel coronavirus from when it emerged as a respiratory infection in Wuhan, China, to its escalation into a global pandemic.

Confirming that the U.S. has been the worst hit country in the world during the pandemic, Fauci attributes the lack of success the U.S. has had in containing the outbreak as stemming from the fact that the country never really shut down. 

Presenting data comparing the government responses between the U.S., Spain and Italy, Fauci cited measures such as visits to parks and outdoor spaces, people returning to workplaces and visits to grocery stores and pharmacies. The U.S. population showed a consistently higher percentage of people continuing these activities amid the pandemic as opposed to the populations of Spain and Italy, indicating that the country never fully shut down.  


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Interestingly, Fauci said that he received pushback from “people in our government” about this explanation until he found the data proving the U.S. population was more active than contemporary countries. 

While the U.S. has hit a new low of about 36,000 cases a day, Fauci emphasizes that this is still an “extraordinarily unacceptable baseline if you’re thinking of so-called opening the economy and entering into the fall and relatively soon winter season.” 

Pointing out that a serious surge in new coronavirus infections occurred over the summer in states like Florida, Arizona, Texas and parts of Southern California, coinciding with activity during holidays like the 4th of July and Memorial Day, Fauci warns of a similar surge during the fall.

“I think as we get into the fall and we do more indoor things, we are likely going to see upticks in COVID-19,” he predicted.

In terms of influenza, Fauci was slightly more optimistic, saying that if the U.S. population continues to follow the health protocols to fight the coronavirus, such as wearing masks, social distancing and washing hands, the upcoming flu season could be light.


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“I would hope that with a combination of everybody… getting vaccinated with influenza and the public health measures that we do prevent us from having a bad influenza season,” he explained.

“What I would like to see is...keeping the lid on it, keeping the baseline down until we get a vaccine.”

Fauci maintains that an effective vaccine will likely appear within the end of 2020 to the beginning of 2021.

Along with a panel of other infectious diseases experts present on the webinar, Fauci agreed that the next battle in the pandemic will be overcoming the perceived lack of public trust in the Food and Drug Administration and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to help people stay confident in receiving a potential coronavirus vaccine. 

“We have our work cut out for us,” Fauci concluded. 


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Published on Sep 10, 2020