Dr. Fauci Just Begged All Americans to Do This One Thing
Six months into the coronavirus pandemic, myths, mistakes and false information have been spreading as fast as the disease itself. In an Instagram Live conversation with actor Matthew McConaughey, Dr. Anthony Fauci cleared up some of those myths and outlined real steps Americans must take to quash the virus. In the process, the broke some news, giving his latest estimate on a coronavirus vaccine, weighing in on whether there should be a nationwide lockdown this fall, and revealing the most important thing we can all do to end the pandemic. Here are the things he said that are worth repeating.
There Are "Very Disturbing" Long-Term Side Effects to COVID
"We're starting to see more and more people who apparently recover from the actual viral part of it, and then weeks later they feel weak. They feel tired, they feel sluggish, they feel short of breath," said Fauci. "It's a chronic projection forward of symptoms, even though the virus is gone. And we think that's probably an immunological effect. It's very disturbing, because if this is true for a lot of people, then just recovering from this may not be OK. You may have weeks where you feel not exactly correct."
Zinc Isn't Effective
Early in the pandemic, a viral email circulated urging people to take zinc lozenges to shorten the duration of COVID-19. Fauci said he has seen "no evidence" that zinc works this way. "The thing that happens a lot, which confuses people, is you get viruses, you put them in a plate or in a culture and you throw all kinds of things there. And many compounds suppress the replication," he said. "But when you get to a clinical trial and you give it to people with the disease, more often than not, those things don't have any beneficial effect. There are many more things that work in the test tube that don't work in the body."
Asymptomatic People Can Spread the Virus
"When you look at the level of virus in the nasal pharynx of someone who's symptomatic versus without symptoms, the level is exactly the same," said Fauci. "So you can make the assumption that… without symptoms, you can spread it. We know from pretty good studies that asymptomatic people can drive transmission of this virus."
Herd Immunity Is A Dangerous Idea
When McConaughey asked Fauci what would happen if everyone in the world contracted coronavirus, he replied, "If everyone contracted it, even with the relatively high percentage of people who are without symptoms, a lot of people are going to die.
"If you look at the United States of America with our epidemic of obesity, with the number of people with hypertension, with the number of people have diabetes—if everyone got infected, the death toll would be enormous and totally unacceptable," he added. "And that's the reason why we are against saying, 'Let it fly, let everybody get infected, and we'll be fine.' That's a bad idea."
Expect a Vaccine This Year
When McConaughey posited that we are six months to a year away from a viable coronavirus vaccine, Fauci said it would be sooner. "Likely the end of this current year, the beginning of 2021, moderate numbers of those will be available," said Fauci. "As we get well into 2021, we should have enough for everybody."
The Government Screwed Up
Fauci said that the government "absolutely" made mistakes in its initial response to the pandemic. "Anybody who said they did it perfectly is not facing reality," he added. "There were certain missteps early on with the testing issue, which we finally corrected. There were some things we did really well. There were some things we moved appropriately [on]."
He Hopes Sports Can Go On This Season
Fauci outlined how sports teams that have decided to play this fall can minimize COVID's impact on players. "What they likely will do is test everybody first to make sure that you start off on an even playing field, and then they will do it intermittently," said Fauci. "That is probably the best they can do if they are lucky, which I hope they are, because I'd love to see the sports that people enjoy. Particularly in this time of stress."
Vigilant testing and quick action is key, he said. "They almost certainly are going to have a situation where somebody is going to get infected. The way they deal with it, how quickly they identify it, how quickly they get the person out of the pack and take care of them will determine whether they can go through the season," said Fauci.
He Is Not In Favor of a Nationwide Shutdown
Some medical experts have suggested that the U.S. go into a hard lockdown for three months to stamp out the virus. Fauci is not in their camp. "If you shut down—even if it was no economic issue—what happens is that psychologically, it could be devastating," he said. "Children may not get their vaccinations. People don't go to hospitals when they get chest pain. People don't follow up because they have an elevated PSA or a mammogram that shows something. There are a lot of different things that could go wrong beyond the economy."
He added: "There's projections that if you stay shut down, the number of deaths unrelated to COVID will go up—the number of suicides, overdoses, family issues such as child abuse and things like that. They all go up."
Choose Between Bars or Schools
Fauci reiterated his advice to stay away from crowds and avoid going to bars. "Bars are the hotspots—no hanging out in bars. We know when the bars get closed, the infection [rate] goes down. When people just let it rip and go to bars, it goes up."
He added: "I often say—and I don't mean to be provocative about it—you know, take your choice. You want to open the bars or you want to open the schools? If you open the bars, you're going to have community spread that would make it more difficult to open the schools up."
The One Thing Everyone Must Do
Fauci spoke about his top-of-mind concern now. "We need to pull together in a uniform way," he said. "Because when you have the dynamics of an outbreak, if you have one weak link in the chain, you don't win the game. It just will not work. We've got to pull together as a nation.
"Our country has been through some very, very difficult situations," Fauci added. "We've been through with depression, we've been through world war. I'm old enough to have been a baby during WWII. But I remember how the country absolutely pulled together. We pulled together after 9/11. This is equivalent to that."
As for yourself, do everything you can to prevent getting—and spreading—COVID-19 in the first place: Mask, get tested if you think you have coronavirus, avoid crowds (and bars, and house parties), practice social distancing, only run essential errands, wash your hands regularly, disinfect frequently touched surfaces, and to get through this pandemic at your healthiest, don't miss these 37 Places You're Most Likely to Catch Coronavirus.