Story at a glance

  • Speaking with Trevor Noah, Anthony Fauci clarified several public health messages, including when to wear masks while in public.
  • He noted that the current U.S. COVID-19 statistics are “terrible,” especially as fall and winter near.

Speaking with Trevor Noah on Monday night, Anthony Fauci, the leading infectious diseases expert and a key member of White House Coronavirus Task Force, discussed the United States's progress roughly seven months into the coronavirus pandemic and what he would like to see as the fall and winter months approach.

Following the confusing reversal in the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) medical advice surrounding how the virus can spread, Noah talked about the lack of a single centralized source of information surrounding the coronavirus.

Fauci acknowledged that while it will be difficult to give a satisfactory answer, he said that he has always tried his best to reiterate the same public health messages throughout the pandemic. 


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“I try my best, and I think I’m successful, in giving a consistent message as often as I can get the message out, something that is just based on the scientific data, based on evidence, which is something that is really very important,” he said.

One hindrance that Fauci says has made it difficult to streamline messaging is the politicizing of public health protocols. 

“We are in such a divisive state in society that it tends to get politicized,” he explained. “And the thing that I keep saying, and I'll say it very briefly now, because I think it's important is that everybody feels, we need to open the economy to get people back, to work, to get people back to school, but the public health messages that we've given, and that you've heard me give back months ago...should be more of a gateway and a pathway to opening the country as opposed to the obstacle to opening the country.”

He further called the political polarization of wearing masks “unfortunate,” and that the mandate to don a mask while in public is simply a public health issue, not a political one. 

“When I'm telling you wear a mask, keep social distancing, avoid crowds, wash your hands, do things outdoors more than indoors. There's nothing political about that,” Fauci said. “That’s a public health message that we know works.” 


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Evaluating America’s progress during the pandemic, Fauci admitted that the statistics are “terrible,” citing more than 6 million cases and almost 200,000 fatalities. 

“What I’m concerned about is that our baseline is still very, very high,” he said. 

He attributes the high number of COVID-19 infections to states that tried to reopen their economies ahead of CDC guidelines and some people did not follow public health ordinances. 

The baseline of daily COVID-19 infections in the U.S. has improved over the course of the pandemic from hovering around 70,000 daily cases to between 30,000 and 40,000.

Regardless, Fauci told Noah that he hopes to see cooperation within the U.S. to follow public health protocols and continue to reduce the baseline of infections, especially as influenza season approaches.

"As you go into the fall and winter and more things will have to be done indoors rather than outdoors. You want to start off with the lowest possible baseline that you can have,” Fauci said. 

To eliminate confusion surrounding when to wear masks, Fauci explained that individuals should always have a mask handy while in public, but if someone is outdoors and away from people, a mask is not always necessary. 

When in a restaurant, movie theatre, or other enclosed spaces that have circulated air, he advises wearing a mask when not eating or drinking. 


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Published on Sep 22, 2020