The United States has what it takes to get Covid-19 case levels down to more manageable levels by Election Day in November if it uses masks and other “fundamental tenetsof infection control” — but it needs to get serious now, Dr. Anthony Fauci told CNN on Thursday.
“We can be way down in November … if we do things correctly , and if we start right now,” Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told CNN’s “New Day.”
Fauci’s roadmap is the same one he’s been preaching, including using masks in public, social distancing and washing hands.
And he points to hopeful signs that this works. Arizona, which had a significant outbreak this summer, has “started to really clamp down and do things right,” he said.
Arizona went from averaging near 4,000 cases a day in early July to below 2,000 new cases a day now, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.
“I really do believe, based on the data we see in other countries, and in the United States, in states and cities and counties that have done it correctly, that if we pay attention to the fundamental tenets of infection control and diminution of transmission, we can be way down in November,” Fauci said.
“Everybody on the team of American citizens needs to pull together. … It’s up to us,” he said.
The world may never eradicate coronavirus, but it can get it under control, Fauci says
A day earlier, Fauci said Covid-19 may never be eradicated completely, but states’ efforts to enforce measures against the virus and the race to a vaccine could keep it from drastically disrupting life in the United States again.
With 4.7 million cases and 158,249 deaths across the US alone, Fauci said Wednesday that the “highly transmissible” virus isn’t likely to be eradicated from the planet. The conclusion drawn by the nation’s leading infectious disease expert contrasts with that of President Donald Trump, who on Wednesday said the virus will “go away.”
Fauci said the US can get on top of the virus with a good vaccine and prudent safety measures.
“We may need to go through a season of it and then by next season, if we have a vaccine, it won’t be a pandemic, it won’t be immobilizing the world, it won’t be destroying the economy,” he said.
At least 39 states as well as Washington, DC, and Puerto Rico have put some type of order in place that mandates the use of masks, and vaccines are advancing through development in hopes of reaching the public in 2021, Fauci has said. Still, the nation still is missing the cohesive response to the virus he would like to see.
“We had a disparate response,” Fauci said. “But totally, as a nation, we are in that situation where we’ve got to get that control way down to a low baseline.”
States taking matters into their own hands
Without a strong national game plan in place, state leaders are taking control of coronavirus measures.
Testing, contact tracing, masks and distancing have all been stressed by health experts as measures that could help reduce the spread of the virus and bring numbers down to the baseline necessary to reopen safely.
To ramp up production of tests that can give results in 15 to 20 minutes, governors from Maryland, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, Ohio and Virginia reached an agreement to run a total of 3 million rapid antigen tests, according to a statement released Tuesday.
Meanwhile, when people do test positive in Virginia, a new app announced by Gov. Ralph Northam on Wednesday will alert those they have been in close contact with of their potential exposure. COVIDWISE uses Bluetooth Low Energy technology, not personal information or location data, to detect when people have been in close enough range, according to a release.
North Carolina is extending Safer at Home Phase 2 for another five weeks to reduce the number of people congregating and spreading the virus as schools reopen, Gov. Roy Cooper announced Wednesday.
And Mississippi, with the fifth-highest recorded case count in the country, has gone from mandating masks in only the counties with the worst numbers to requiring them at public gatherings statewide.
“I (had) taken a piecemeal approach (to masks) because I believe firmly that this was the best way to get the most number of people to participate,” Gov. Tate Reeves told reporters Tuesday. “I believe that there is enough motivation (now) to safely get our kids in school that we can really juice the participation of mask wearing throughout our state for the next two weeks.”
Young and those without symptoms driving up cases
Case numbers are being driven up by people who are not taking the virus seriously, Fauci told CNN’s Dr. Sanjay Gupta.
“The good news about Covid-19 is that about 40% of the population has no symptoms. … The bad news, for messaging, is that 40% of the population get no symptoms.”
That makes it difficult to present a clear and consistent message about the dangers of the virus.
“As long as you have any member of society, any demographic group, who’s not seriously trying to get to the end game of suppressing this, it will continue to smolder and smolder and smolder,” he said. “And that will be the reason why, in a non-unified way, we’ve plateaued at an unacceptable level.”
Since the beginning of June, the case rate for people in the age group of 30 to 49 nearly tripled and the case rate for people between the ages of 18 to 29 nearly quadrupled, Los Angeles County Department of Public Health Director Dr. Barbara Ferrer said.
“This is also the age group that is most likely to be attending the large parties that we keep seeing,” said Dr. Ferrer
As a result, the county health officer has imposed a new “legally binding” order prohibiting gatherings, including parties.
Schools facing tough decisions
School districts have been at the center of a difficult debate about whether or not to reopen schools for in-person classes as infections continue to spread.
Early in the outbreak, health experts believed severe infections and spread were less likely among children. But more recent data shows that while children are far less likely to die from Covid-19 than adults, they can still pass the disease on to others.
But keeping students home could lead to millions of parents being forced to quit their jobs, according to economists from Goldman Sachs.
Single parents, those whose jobs do not allow them to work from home and those without access to child care are at risk of having to choose between sending their children to school — whether or not they think its safe — or quitting their job to stay home with them, said Dr. Edith Bracho-Sanchez, a primary care pediatrician and assistant professor of pediatrics at Columbia University Irving Medical Center.
“We have failed the parents and the kids of this country,” she said.
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