Dr. Fauci Says This Is How the U.S. Can Avoid a "Catastrophe" This Fall
Calling himself a "cautious optimist," Fauci outlined what we need to do to avoid coronavirus surges.
While mask-wearing, social distancing, and stay-at-home orders have helped other countries stem their coronavirus epidemics, the U.S. has seen record-breaking numbers of new COVID cases since the pandemic began—and rising death tolls, as well. In fact, people in the U.S. are dying of the coronavirus at a rate of over 17 times faster than people in Canada and Europe. However, Anthony Fauci, MD, a member of the White House Coronavirus Task Force, says that that hope is not lost—and changing our perspective now can help the country avoid a "catastrophe" in the coming months. In a conversation with Ashish Jha, MD, incoming dean at the Brown University School of Public Health, on August 7, Fauci said that if people can begin to view the public health principles as a step toward reopening the country, rather than as a means of control or a step backward, COVID-19 numbers could be in a much more manageable place in the next few months.
Fauci explained that public health principles and reopening the country are "synergistic" with one another, and that it's essential for public health officials to make that better understood among citizens. "One is not the enemy of the other," he explained. "One is a gateway to get to the other."
That said, Fauci made it clear that he's not unaware of how polarizing the virus and the public health response to it has been in the U.S. "Anybody who says we're not living in a divisive era in our country is not paying attention to what's going on," he said. However, Fauci noted that if people follow recommended public health measures, "we could go into the fall and the winter looking good."
While some have suggested that certain states' coronavirus numbers are rising so sharply that lockdown orders might once again be necessary, Fauci made it clear that there's still time to keep that from happening. Calling himself a "cautious optimist," Fauci explained, "we do not have to completely lock down if we do things right… I believe we can open up the economy, get the employment back, get people out of the doldrums of being locked down… if we do it prudently, carefully, and the way the guidelines say."
Fauci said that when states begin to see an uptick in new infections, individuals in those states need to start taking public health mandates, like staying home and wearing masks, seriously, or the numbers will continue to rise. "It never turns around spontaneously unless you do something different than you're doing," he explained. So, what are the exact steps people need to take going forward to reduce infection rates? In the interview with Jha, Fauci outlined these six "fundamental principles" for bringing U.S. coronavirus numbers down. And for more on the states that particularly should be heeding Fauci's warnings, check out Here's When Your State Will Have to Shut Down Again.
Wear a mask.
Mask wearing simply can't be optional if we want to curb the spread of the coronavirus, said Fauci, calling for "universal" mask wearing in the U.S. And for more on this, check out If Your Mask Doesn't Have Two of These, It's Not Working, Study Says.
Practice social distancing.
If you do leave home, Fauci says that maintaining social distancing—meaning keeping at least six feet of distance between you and anyone you don't share a home with—is essential.
Enormous coronavirus outbreaks have been linked to everything from birthday parties to funerals, so avoiding crowds is necessary whenever possible, Fauci said. And for more on what's being done to stop these kind of COVID super-spreader events, check out Los Angeles Is Taking Drastic Action to Shut Down COVID Parties.
Keep in-person interactions outdoors.
A guiding principle, according to Fauci, is that "outdoors is better than indoors." If you're going to gather with people outside your household, it's best to keep the interaction outdoors. And for more up-to-date information, sign up for our daily newsletter.
Wash your hands.
One of the easiest ways to reduce the spread of coronavirus? "Hand hygiene," says Fauci. According to guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), that means washing your hands for at least 20 seconds with soap and water multiple times throughout the day. And if you're out and about and using hand sanitizer, check out You Haven't Been Rubbing in Your Hand Sanitizer Correctly, CDC Says.
Heading back to your favorite watering hole will have to wait. "Bars are bad news when it comes to the spread, and you have a lot of infection," says Fauci. And for more expert advice on how to stay safe, Dr. Fauci Wants You to Avoid Doing These 9 Things Right Now.