The country is not heading into fall and winter with a decline in coronavirus cases, Dr. Anthony Fauci said during an American University virtual event on Tuesday. As some places in the country are seeing an uptick in cases, there will be hospitalizations, community spread, and fatality, Fauci said. To contain COVID-19, widespread adoption of public health measures is needed.
“As a nation we need to double down with the fundamental public health practices we know work, the universal use of masks, the distancing, the avoiding of crowds, doing things outdoors as much as we possibly can and washing of hands,” said Fauci. “We’re really faced with a challenge. It’s in our hands. Are we going to do it?”
The physician, immunologist, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, and advisor to six presidential administrations made the remarks during a wide-ranging conversation with AU President Sylvia Burwell during a Zoom livestream event on the pandemic for students and their families. The event occurred during AU Family Week, an annual week of activities for students and their families that went virtual this academic year because of the pandemic. AU’s Kennedy Political Union, a student-run, non-partisan speakers bureau, organized the event.
In a Q-and-A format moderated by Burwell, Fauci answered students’ questions on the timeline for vaccine development and implementation, vaccine safety, promising research activity, racial disparities and inequities in coronavirus cases, how to work with family members who believe the virus is a hoax, and more.
While public health experts have learned a great deal about the nature of the virus and transmission eight months into the pandemic, there is still much to be learned, Fauci said. One example is how researchers are studying the phenomenon of “long haulers,” which refers to a group of individuals who, once recovering from the virus, continue to experience symptoms of the virus, including neurological issues.
Fauci expressed optimism that the normal way of life for Americans will return, but it will take time. It will occur when the daily case numbers in the U.S. are much lower and the public health tools of effectively identifying cases, isolating and quarantining individuals and contact tracing can be employed to keep the virus at bay, he explained. There needs to be a uniform response to the virus, he said.
“When you have a public health crisis, everybody's got to be pulling together in the same direction,” Fauci said, referring to the analogy of a crew team rowing. The lack of containment and community spread of the virus occurs, Fauci said, “because of the lack of implementation of simple public health measures.”
Burwell, who worked with Fauci during the Ebola and Zika epidemics when she served as secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, called it an honor to speak with Fauci.
“Dr. Fauci is a tireless public servant – and an honorary AU Eagle!,” she said. “It was a privilege for our AU community to hear firsthand his perspective on the COVID-19 pandemic and to share his insights.”