Dr. Fauci Just Issued This Appeal to Young People About COVID-19
With record coronavirus cases and deaths across America, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation's top infectious disease expert and director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease, went on David Axelrod's podcast The Axe Files to talk about the threat of young people spreading the virus—and his relationship with President Trump. Click through to see how you can stay safe.
On How Young People Are Spreading the Infection
"If you look at the statistics, young people, clearly when they get infected, they have less of a chance of giving a serious outcome, but there are a significant number of examples of young people, mostly millennials, but even children, less so with children, but young people, that when they do get infected, they do get a serious outcome. Even though it's a minority of them. The issue that I have that's important is that since so many people, 20 to 40% who get infected, have no symptoms at all, young people. And these are particularly young. People are old enough to go to a bar. They feel if they get infected that, in fact, there's no consequences. They say, 'It's unlikely I'm going to get sick. So I'm just going to worry about myself.' What they're failing to realize—and this is probably an innocent failure to realize, not pointing any blame—is that when they get infected or don't do anything to prevent themselves from getting infected, they are inadvertently propagating the pandemic. They are becoming part of this phenomenon of a pandemic. It is highly likely that they will infect someone who will then infect someone who will then be a vulnerable person who will suffer greatly from getting infected….So you want to appeal to the societal responsibility of young people to help us get out of this difficult situation that we're in with this global pandemic."
On If We'll Reach The Dreaded 100,000 Cases a Day
"I hope not. I mean, it's certainly conceivable that will happen. I believe that the kinds of things that we're doing would mitigate against that. I don't want to see that obviously, but, you know, remember we plateaued at an unacceptably high level. We went way up and then came down at around 20,000 cases a day. And we just were stuck there for weeks and weeks until finally, we had the resurgence in the Southern States where we went up to 30, 40, 50, 60 in most recently, 70. If you look at the other countries in the world, particularly the European Union, they went up to the peak and they came back down to a real baseline where they were having tens and hundreds of cases a day, not tens of thousands of cases a day. So we really need to do better than that. And that's what I'm looking forward to, to finally get that curve down a baseline."
On Americans Waiting for a Week or More for Test Results
"That's a very important issue. I can say we are doing much, much better now today, as you and I speak than we were months ago with regarding testing. And we're going to be doing better as we go forward, more tests become available, but particularly when there are surges and a great demand on testing, we are not doing as well as we could do, because you know, you can theoretically say we have a lot of tests, but when you get on the phone and call up the people in the trenches, they are telling that under certain circumstances, you have to wait five, six, seven days to get the result of the test. And that obviates the actual underlying reason of getting the tests. Because if you don't know what the result, the result is 24 hours later than contact tracing becomes irrelevant because what good is contact tracing. If the person has been exposing people for the last five to seven days, so we need to correct that. It's gotta be more resources. They gotta be getting the people on the ground."
On Working With President Trump
"The extent to which I get involved with a president really depends on circumstances that are beyond my control and the control of the president. It depends on what's going on…Now with COVID-19 obviously, as you know, earlier on, particularly when we were dealing among the Coronavirus Task Force—I meet with the vice president very frequently. Like almost every day, if I'm not there physically, I'm speaking to him. And early on, we had a lot of interaction with President Trump, you know, particularly during the time we'll be giving frequent press conferences. That's a little bit less so now, but not completely discontinued….I am trying my best to completely stay out of politics. But when you're in a situation that's politically charged, it's kind of difficult to completely not be impacted by it. I stay out of any personal involvement in politics, but I try to do my job, but I'm aware of the tension. The one thing that's interesting that I think people don't appreciate is that I do have a very good relationship with the president in the sense of no animosity at all. In fact, it's quite a good relationship."
On Having His Daughter, a Teacher, Go Back to School
"I've discussed this with her. She's very conscientious about the safety of the children she's responsible for as well as her own safety. But my feeling is that if you look at the broad umbrella, the default position, should be that we should try as best as possible to get the children back to school. That should be the default because of the negative downstream ripple effect, negative consequences of keeping them at a shelter for their own psychological welfare. That's a given. But having said that we have to pay attention primarily to the safety and the health of the children and of the teachers. And they're going to be some parts of the country where there's no problem at all, because the level of infection is so low that there's very little risk bringing the children back to school, but in those areas that are the hot areas where there's a lot of infection going on, then you better take a close look of what can we do to safeguard the health and the welfare of the children that could be, you know, modifying how you do it—a hybrid, part online, part in school, separating the classes by days, morning, afternoon, physical separation, wearing mask. There's a lot of things that you can do as long as you make sure that you're very sensitive to the safety and the welfare of the children."
On Why We Seemed So Unprepared For COVID-19
"You know, that's a good question. In some respects, although it seems strange given the difficult time we're going through right now, we weren't that poorly prepared as a matter of fact at the time when you remember when we were doing pandemic preparedness plans during the George W. Bush and Obama administration—we were paying considerable attention to how we would respond to an emerging infection. In fact, the Johns Hopkins institution, when they judged all the different countries as to how prepared they were for a pandemic outbreak, they voted that the United States was better prepared than anybody, even in that context, when you have something as extraordinary as this outbreak that has occurred now, which is historic, it's the worst thing that we've experienced since 1918, that any kind of preparedness, you know, when you think about it likely is not going to be completely adequate."
On How Our Response May Improve After This
"We're hopefully getting better at it. I hope that this experience, as bad as it is, and the fact that it isn't even over, will trigger us to realize that there will be a next time. So we've got to use lessons learned now to be even better prepared than we were this time, because we were reasonably well prepared. We were just overcome by the magnitude of this and how it exploded on us in a period from nothing at the end of December to a global pandemic, just a couple of months later, that is really unprecedented."
On Living Out His Worst Nightmare
"When people would ask me, over the decades, what's your worst fear? What's your worst nightmare? You know, and I would always say consistently, it would be a virus that would jump species from an animal reservoir that we've never seen before. It would be a respiratory virus, and that would have two major characteristics. It would spread in a very, very efficient manner. And two, it would have a substantial degree of morbidity and mortality—over the years we've seen versions of one or the other of those two characteristics, but never both, at least not in our lifetime. And for example, remember when the bird flu threatened us, we jumped from a chicken to a human. The mortality of that was substantial 30 to 40%, but it was very inefficient in going from human to human. Today with COVID-19: This is the worst nightmare because we have a virus that's spectacularly efficient in going from human to human. And it does have a significant degree of morbidity mortality, particularly in a subset of people who have underlying conditions. So as soon as I saw that possibility, I said, well, we better get a vaccine and we better start fast. And we started literally a few days after the VI, the virus was identified by the Chinese."
How to Avoid COVID-19 Where You Are
Follow Dr. Fauci's advice: To stay healthy, wear your face mask, get tested if you think you have COVID-19, 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.