- Dr. Anthony Fauci addressed the five things everybody can do to help prevent COVID-19 from spreading.
- They include wearing face masks, physical distancing, staying away from places where people congregate, choosing outdoor activities over indoor ones, and practicing good hand hygiene.
- He said we need to practice safety measures to bring the number of daily cases down so we can enter fall with a low baseline.
In a live Q&A session hosted by JAMA Monday, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and member of the White House Coronavirus Task Force, discussed the key learnings from the pandemic along with what may be in store for us.
Unless we get a handle on the current surges and start seeing a decrease in new daily cases, the pandemic may be even worse come fall.
“I do not know nor can anyone know what the fall is going to bring,” Fauci said in the Q&A. “We need to get those numbers down. If we don’t get them down, then we’re going to have a really bad situation in the fall.”
Fauci also addressed the five things everybody can do to help prevent resurgences from occurring.
They include wearing face masks, physical distancing, staying away from places where people congregate, choosing outdoor activities over indoor ones, and practicing good hand hygiene.
“It’s not rocket science but it really can be effective,” Fauci said.
Here are the main points Fauci addressed during his conversation with Dr. Howard Bauchner, the editor-in-chief of JAMA.
Do we need to close down again?
What unfolds in the fall will really depend on how we respond to areas currently reporting an uptick in cases.
According to Fauci, we now understand that before becoming a hotspot, states have first detected a gradual increase in percent positivity, or the number of people testing positive out of everyone tested.
If the percent positivity number is going up — even by just 1 or 1.5 percentage points — it could be indicative of an impending surge.
“If it continues to go up, it generally doesn’t spontaneously come down — it means it’s a good predictor of a surge,” Fauci said.
We are seeing this trend in some yellow states, like Tennessee, Kentucky, Ohio, and Minnesota.
When states experience an early uptick, they may need to reassess their reopening plans.
States may need to pause their reopening plans and ramp up safety measures to blunt the spread.
The best ways to blunt resurgences
The most effective way to prevent resurgences, according to Fauci, is to adhere to five safety protocols.
People need to consistently wear masks, physically distance, avoid bars and areas where people congregate, opt for outdoor rather than indoor activities, and wash their hands.
We are still learning a lot about how particles stay afloat in the air in indoor and outdoor spaces, but Fauci says it’s clear the risk is greater indoors where air is circulated compared to outdoors.
Fauci says we need to keep hammering home the importance of masks. By consistently wearing a mask, people who don’t know they’re infected can avoid spreading the coronavirus to others.
Without these best practices, the virus will keep resurging, Fauci said.
For those who want an extra degree of protection, Fauci suggests wearing goggles or a face shield as you can contract COVID-19 though your eyes.
How readily do children spread COVID-19?
As schools prepare to reopen, health experts continue to study children’s role in community transmission, according to Fauci.
Recent data suggests that older children — ages 10 to 19 — don’t get as serious a disease, but they can spread the virus just as readily as adults.
Children younger than 10 don’t seem to spread it as much, Fauci pointed out.
Fauci says there’s no question children have a lower risk of becoming seriously ill with COVID-19. The big question that needs to be studied is how readily younger kids spread it.
A recent study found evidence that very young children who are infected can have a high viral load in their nasal pharynx.
“You can make a reasonable assumption that if very young children have a higher viral load in their nasal pharynx that they’re capable of transmitting it,” Fauci said.
What to know about a vaccine and treatments
Fauci is hopeful we will have a vaccine later this year or early next year, although there are no guarantees.
Though people are eager for it, Fauci says we can’t rush the process.
Researchers need time to show the vaccines are safe and effective. When they have, the data collected through clinical trials needs to be transparent and readily available to the public, says Fauci.
“Even a safe but ineffective vaccine could lead to a false sense of security,” says Fauci. A vaccine needs not only efficacy but safety, he added.
One concern Bauchner brought up is if the vaccine could trigger an overwhelming immune response in people who already had contracted the virus.
This type of aberrant inflammatory response to vaccines is rare, and will need to be evaluated in the controlled trials currently taking place before the vaccine becomes publicly available.
“What we really do need, and these are things that are being pursued very actively now, are things for early disease,” Fauci said.
What’s up next?
Fauci says it’s impossible to predict exactly what will occur in the fall.
We’re still in the middle of the first wave — the country is seeing about 50,000 to 60,000 cases and 1,000 deaths a day.
Fauci says we need to practice those safety measures to bring the number of daily cases down so we can enter fall with a low baseline.
If we don’t contain the outbreaks, we may see the surges continue with force in the fall, especially as people head back indoors and flu season kicks in.
“We gotta get our arms around that and get it contained as we enter into the fall,” Fauci said.
The bottom line
In a live Q&A with JAMA Monday, Dr. Anthony Fauci addressed the key learnings from the pandemic along with what may be in store for us this fall. Unless we contain the current surges, the pandemic may be even worse in the fall as people head indoors and deal with flu season. To prevent resurgences, Fauci recommends wearing masks, physical distancing, washing hands, avoiding crowded spaces, and choosing outdoor activities over indoor activities.
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