BETHESDA, Md. – During a Q&A session with the Journal of American Medical Association (JAMA) on Wednesday, Dr. Anthony Fauci said that he’s cautiously optimistic that the U.S. will see a kind of “plateauing-out” in coronavirus cases within the next week or so.
If we do that, Fauci told JAMA Editor Howard Bauchner, M.D. the real challenge is getting back to some type of normalcy in the country. Once the number of cases has gone down, the infectious diseases expert said it will be important not to let small outbreaks get out of hand.
“We better make sure that we very aggressively and vigorously do not allow the resurgence of two or three or 10 or 20 get out of hand, we’ve got to jump all over that so we don’t have recurrent peaks, because if we do that, we’re just going to play a sawtooth game instead of one and down, which is what we want to do,” said Fauci.
When asked if every metropolitan area will see a large spike in cases, like New York City, Fauci said he didn’t think so.
“I don’t think that’s a forgone conclusion,” he said. “I really think you’ll start to see metropolitan areas to continue to push this physical separation.”
Regarding the public’s use of masks, Fauci said he supports it as long as medical professionals on the frontlines of the pandemic can get the protective equipment that they need to fight the virus.
“The idea of being creative and fashioning masks, in a way that you don’t take away from the N95 masks and the other surgical masks that people need, I think is a good thing for several reasons,” said Fauci.
Fauci said if you don’t know that you’re infected, a mask will go a long way in preventing you from infecting someone else.
“It’s not 100% in protecting you, but certainly, if you wear a mask, and someone else wears a mask, in a situation where you can’t guarantee you can maintain a 6-foot distance, I think that would be quite contributory to the decrease in spread,” said Fauci. “Not to mention, the alleviation to some anxiety on the people. You don’t want to have false confidence, but I think it goes a long way.”
When asked if there were any updates about the results of clinical vaccine trials, Fuaci said “It’s all still too soon.”
Fauci been at the forefront of U.S. efforts to contend with viral diseases like HIV, SARS and swine flu. When asked how the current pandemic compares to the HIV crisis, Faucis said they’re both serious public health challenges, but they’re so different in how the presented themselves to society.
“It didn’t instill fear, globally, in anyone for a while,” Fauci said of HIV. “It was cumulative and only when we found out, through the antibody tests, that what we were seeing with ill patients, was the tip of the iceberg, that people realized that this was turning into a global problem that would extend over four decades. And at the end of the day, almost certainly, it will kill infinitely more people than the coronavirus will. However, with this, it gets truncated into weeks and it explodes, and everybody is vulnerable, and everybody is afraid and it’s all over the world, in real time, very obvious. Where with HIV, it was insidious, and it ultimately turned out to be historic in its implications, whereas here it just exploded right in front of our face.”
Once the U.S. begins to lower the amount of cases reported daily, Fauci says the key to next several months is not letting things get out of hand again.
“From everything we know about this virus, it’s not going to disappear from the planet, for sure, given how we know how globally distributed it is,” he said. “So, there will be cases. We have to be able to act on them in a very deliberate way that doesn’t allow us to get into the situation we’re in right now. Ultimately, the answer is going to be a vaccine.