“His advice is honest and rooted in sound science,” former President George W. Bush
“He’s the guy I’ve gone to since 1993 . . . and still do,” National Institutes of Health Director Dr. Francis Collins
“Thank you for what you do and who you are,” World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus
The former President who launched the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, the National Institutes of Health Director since 1993, and the World Health Organization Director-General Ghebreyesus joined a series of health and science luminaries this morning introducing a man who needs no introduction in the lead-in to Dr. Anthony Fauci’s opening this morning of Chasing the Sun, 24 hours of COVID-19 coverage around the world that precedes IDWeek 2020.
The messages Dr. Fauci called “quite humbling,” were critical shows of support for the nation’s leading infectious disease authority as he opened a 24-hour global view of COVID-19 with hard truths about the public health and science surrounding the pandemic in the United States.
With, as of two days ago, more than 8.1 million people infected by the novel coronavirus, more than 220,000 dead, “we have been hit more hard than any other country,” Dr. Fauci noted. While sparked the pandemic exploded across the European Union during the late winter and early spring, the numbers then descended steeply while through April and June the baseline of infections never dropped below 20,000.
Why? “The U.S. did not shut down as much as other countries.”
He reviewed other measures that remained controversial even as numbers rose in this country: Universal wearing of masks, maintaining physical distance of at least 6 feet, avoiding crowds and congregate settings, meeting others outdoors rather than indoors, and frequent hand-washing. “These five,” he said, “are fundamental to controlling the spread of the virus.” In the time since the novel coronavirus appeared, he showed, indications of how it spreads include aerosol transmission — through fine particles that linger in the air, increasing risks of transmission in indoor settings, particularly without the use of masks.
He reviewed the impacts — that while the disease is mild to moderate in a little more than 80 percent of those infected, it kills an estimated 2.3 percent of those who get sick, with gravely disparate impacts in the U.S. on African American, Latinx, Native American individuals over-represented in high-risk frontline jobs and disproportionately burdened with health conditions increasing vulnerability to severe illness.
And he brought reassuring news, with a caveat: With five vaccine candidates in Phase 3 trials, he believes that by mid-November to early December “We should have an answer of whether we can have a safe and effective vaccine by the end of the year.” If so, he added, one could be distributed “as we go into 2021.”
The caveat? Data showing limited trust in a vaccine, particularly among the populations needing it most urgently.
Dr. Fauci’s talk is on the IDWeek facebook page.