Dr. Anthony Fauci, a member of the Coronavirus Task Force and the country’s leading expert on infectious diseases, sat down with Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg on Thursday during a live chat on Facebook to discuss the COVID-19—and how to end it. “We do have a serious situation now,” said Fauci. Click through to see what he thinks we did wrong—and why we need a “reset.”
On the Trajectory of the U.S. Being Worse Than Other Countries
Zuckerberg said “personally I think we need to take this more seriously” and that our decisions need to be guided by “science.” He thanked the doctor and asked for his perspective on why the U.S. response has been less than effective. Said Fauci: “It’s a mixed bag. There are parts of the country that are doing well—the Northwest area was hit very hard. There was a period of time when 50% of the deaths were right in New York City. They’ve come back down right now. However—Florida, Arizona, Texas have seen surges that are really quite disturbing. Surges that have gone up to 60,000 cases a day. That is something we must address in a very cogent way.”
On How It Got Out of Control
There’s “a complicated answer to that. When you look—and I’m not going to name any specific states—when you look at what the guidelines were for opening, put out and delineated for what should be done, but the citizenry of the state or the city had the impression that you went either from lockdown to put caution to the wind. What we saw were clips of people congregating at bars without masks, not staying distanced, in crowds, and that’s what I believe is at least part of the explanation of why we’ve seen surges go up.”
On Why He Thinks We Need a “Reset”
“If you look at had things been done perfectly, it should have been wherever you were—in a state or a city, you could judge where you should be. When I say reset button, I mean let’s call a time out. Let’s regroup. Because when you are in a situation where you jumped over one of the checkpoints, you’ve got to think about pulling back and doing the gradual re-entry into normality in a way that’s in accordance with the guidelines. If in fact you are in that, you’ve got to be really very careful that your citizenry understands the importance of following these guidelines.
On How States Can Reset Themselves
“I would recommend as strong as you possibly can to get people to wear masks. To avoid crowds. To keep distances. Outdoors always better than indoors. When you talk about the kind of recommendations, that’s what you have to do. That hasn’t been done. So you’ve got to go back and relook at what we’re doing and reenter. There has been this unusual and important mindset of: ‘you’ve got to follow public health measures and you’ve got to get the economy back. And these are two opposing forces.’ As I’ve said so often, we should be looking at public health measures as a gateway to opening the country again—not as the obstacle, but the gateway. Then I strongly believe we can turn this around in the Southern states and prevent it in the states that are trying to open up.”
On How We Compare to European Countries
“The other thing that’s important is the comparison to other countries…that when you looked at what happened in the European countries, when they had their peak, and they locked down, they locked down 90 to 95% of the country truly locked down. So they went up and then came down to baseline–I mean literally handfuls of new cases, 10, 20s and 30s, not hundreds or thousands. The U.S. as a whole, we never really went down to baseline. We plateaued at 20,000 cases each day until we got into the resurgence which got to 30, 40, 50 and 60. So we’ve got to regroup, call a time out, not necessarily lockdown again but we’ve got to do this in a more measured way. If we don’t do that, other states may be seeing the same thing.”
On Why His Guidance on Masks Changed
“When you’re dealing with something that is changing in real-time, that’s the nature of science. As the information changes, then you have to be flexible enough and humble enough to be able to change how you think about things. One of the things we’re emphasizing right now from a situation that did change is our insistence on wearing masks. Masks are very important. They protect you in giving the infection to someone else. If you happen to be inadvertently affected, there’s such a significant number of the cases that are without symptoms. Anyone at any time could be infected and feel perfectly well. So you have a responsibility. Now early on when we were in a situation about the lack of personal protective equipment for those who put themselves in harm’s way, we were thinking we’d run out of masks for them. It became clear we had enough of the equipment. It became clear that cloth coverings were adequate. And it became very clear that 20 to 45% of people didn’t have symptoms—you could be spreading it asymptomatically. Put all those things together and it had us evolve.”
How You Can Stay Healthy Where You Are
To stay healthy where you are, follow Dr. Fauci’s advice: Wear your face mask, wash your hands frequently, avoid crowds, practice social distancing, monitor your health, and to get through this pandemic at your healthiest, don’t miss these 37 Places You’re Most Likely to Catch Coronavirus.
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