July 18, 2020 – The country’s leading infectious disease expert said public health officials must do a better job of reaching the country’s youth, which have led to an increase in COVID-19 cases in the South and the West.
Anthony Fauci, MD, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, also said he was “cautiously optimistic” about having a COVID vaccine by the end of the year and that the optimism is not “hype”.
The remarks came during an extensive interview on “Coronavirus in Context,” a video series hosted by John Whyte, MD, chief medical officer of WebMD.
During the interview, Fauci said he did not blame young people for the increase in cases, many of which were linked to bars and parties.
Since younger people tend to have mild or no symptoms, they may not think they are vulnerable. Fauci said this type of thinking is “understandable and innocent” but “incorrect”.
“By allowing yourself to be infected or not to care if you are infected, you are spreading a pandemic,” Fauci said.
“It doesn’t end with you,” he said. “Chances are you are going to infect someone else, who will then infect someone else, and then someone who is vulnerable … will be infected.”
That’s why he’s made an effort to appear on various live streams in recent weeks to get the message out. He has also appeared on Julia Roberts’ Instagram and Lil Wayne’s podcast.
“We are not operating in a vacuum and we must continue to spread the word,” he said. “Blaming will not help.”
Vaccine optimism is not ‘hype’
Fauci told Whyte he was “cautiously optimistic” about a vaccine by the end of the year or early 2021.
Others opposed the idea, calling the timeline unrealistic. This week, Merck CEO Ken Frazier said in an interview with Harvard Business School that the hype about a vaccine is “bad service” to the public. But on Friday, Fauci reiterated his message of optimism about vaccine candidates undergoing clinical trials.
“I don’t think it’s hype. It’s real, ”he says.
“We take risks, but these are financial risks,” he said. “These are not security risks. They do not compromise scientific integrity. “
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the federal government are funding at least four rapidly advancing candidate vaccines in clinical trials, he added.
While no one can guarantee anything with vaccine development, Fauci believes that the end of 2020 will bring good news about a safe and effective vaccine.
“We’ll get there,” he said. “We think it’s realistic.”
Reopening of schools
Universities, colleges and schools are grappling with the question of what to do in August and September for the start of the academic year. Parents are trying to decide whether to send their children back to school, and teachers are trying to find the best ways to keep everyone safe.
Fauci called it a “critical issue” and said that the “default position” of the American Academy of Pediatrics and other major medical groups is to send children back to school and keep schools open as long as as possible, especially because of the “ripple effect”. negative consequences that can arise when students stay at home.
At the same time, decisions should depend on viral activity in the local community, he said. The United States has more than 3,000 counties and some have few cases of the coronavirus, but many others have a number of cases high enough to be of concern. This could mean not restarting school in person or bringing students back in a safe way that protects both students and teachers.
“It could be simple logistical things” like the spacing of offices, the alternation of schedules to clean the courtyards and teaching outside, he said. “There are creative ways to do it.”
Although some people said the risk of infection and transmission was lower in young children, Fauci called the claims “anecdotal” and said there was not enough data to be so. sure. The NIH launched a study of 2,000 families to understand how infection occurs between children and family members and how underlying conditions such as asthma and allergies play a role, but the researchers do not yet have an answer.
Even still, Fauci reminded people to hope.
“It will end. This does not seem to be the case now, as we have been immersed in it for 5 to 6 months, “he said. “But it will end and we will return to normal.”
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