Dr. Fauci's 10 Most Important Coronavirus Predictions You Need to Know
Here’s what the future holds for U.S. efforts to contain coronavirus, top COVID advisor says.
Throughout the coronavirus pandemic, Anthony Fauci, MD, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) and a member of the White House Coronavirus Task Force, has made several predictions about the course of the disease and how it will impact Americans. In fact, it could be argued that he predicted COVID-19 itself: "There is no question that there will be a challenge to the coming administration in the arena of infectious diseases," Fauci said during a keynote speech for Georgetown University Medical Center in 2017. He also noted in a 2016 BuzzFeed News interview that the risk of "a respiratory disease like influenza that's easily spread and highly lethal" was one of his biggest concerns.
Now, as COVID-19 continues to spread throughout the United States, Fauci has made several other key forecasts about the course the pandemic may take. Here are 10 of his most important coronavirus predictions you should know about as the country continues the fight to combat the disease. And for more on containing COVID, Dr. Fauci Says This Is How the U.S. Can Avoid a "Catastrophe" This Fall.
We could avoid another lockdown if people stuck to public health guidelines.
Despite stories emerging of parties and other concerning large gatherings taking place across the country, now is still the time to be following fundamental rules to prevent the spread of COVID-19, such as practicing social distancing, wearing face masks properly, practicing good hygiene, avoiding large crowds, and getting tested if you feel sick.
"You don't have to lock down again, but everybody has got to be on board for doing these five or six fundamental public health measures," said Fauci during an appearance on POLITICO's "Pulse Check" Podcast on Aug. 6.
Daily cases must drop to 10,000 by the fall.
That's the benchmark the U.S. needs to reach to have control over the pandemic, but right now we're still in the middle of the first wave, Fauci said in a live-streamed interview with The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) on Aug. 3.
Currently, the U.S. is reporting around 50,000 to 60,000 new COVID-19 cases per day. "We're having surging of cases," said Fauci. "We've got 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." Cold weather will force people into less-ventilated indoor spaces, which may exacerbate virus spread – and flu season alongside COVID-19 could be catastrophic to the health care system. For more on how coronavirus is spreading throughout the U.S., These 5 States Account for Nearly Half of the Nation's COVID Cases.
The rate of new infections could double.
The U.S. could experience 100,000 new cases of COVID-19 per day if current outbreaks are not contained, Fauci said while testifying before the Senate on June 30. "It is going to be very disturbing, I will guarantee you that, because when you have an outbreak in one part of the country, even though in other parts of the country they are doing well, they are vulnerable," said Fauci. "We can't just focus on those areas that are having the surge. It puts the entire country at risk." And for more on your chances of contracting coronavirus, 24 Things You're Doing Every Day That Put You at COVID Risk.
A steady increase in positive test rate is a key indicator of a surge.
The positive test rate is the percentage of tests that are positive for COVID-19 out of all tests conducted, and Fauci says it's an important way to tell if a coronavirus surge is coming.
"Prior to the surging, you could detect an early increase in the percent positive for any given state," Fauci said in a recent interview with Howard Bauchner, MD, editor-in-chief of JAMA. It's concerning if the rate increases by just 1 or 1.5 percent, Fauci said. And in May, the World Health Organization advised that positive test rates should remain at 5 percent or lower for at least 14 days in order for states to reopen safely.
The next COVID-19 outbreaks may occur in the Midwest.
Prior to major spikes in COVID cases this summer, Southern and Southwestern states like Florida, Texas, Arizona, and California showed an increase in positive coronavirus test rates. "That's a surefire indication that you are in a process where you're heading towards a resurgence," Fauci explained in an MSNBC interview on July 29. "We're starting to see that in some other states now—Kentucky, Tennessee, Ohio, Indiana."
In other words, while states like Texas and Arizona have started to turn things around, the Midwest and surrounding regions are now showing signs of a resurgence. And for more on containing the coronavirus, check out Dr. Fauci Says This State Set "A Good Example" for Controlling COVID.
The COVID-19 pandemic may lead to positive social changes.
Necessary reform may occur as a result of more public awareness surrounding the healthcare inequalities specific to Black and Latinx communities. For example, according to The New York Times, there are 73 coronavirus cases per 10,000 Latinx people and 62 coronavirus cases per 10,000 Black people—compared with only 23 cases per 10,000 white people. "Perhaps if there's one silver lining in this outbreak, it is to focus with a laser beam on the disparities in health that we've got to change," Fauci said in an interview with BET.
It's possible that we'll know if a vaccine works by fall.
Biotech company Moderna has been testing a coronavirus vaccine that Fauci says could potentially receive Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval as early as October. "We hope that as we go along, that by the end of this year or the beginning of 2021, we will at least have an answer whether the vaccine or vaccines, plural, are safe and effective," Fauci said during an interview with Francis Collins, MD, director of the National Institutes of Health, in July.
Fauci emphasized that safety and scientific integrity will not be compromised during the incredibly quick approval process. It's not known yet how long the distribution of the vaccine will take, but Fauci said companies are already creating doses so there will be a large number available for use if the vaccine is proven to be safe. And for more on our coronavirus response, This One Thing Could "Completely Change the Course" of COVID, Doctor Says.
We'll likely have a billion vaccine doses by the end of 2021.
Fauci has famously said that he is cautiously optimistic about the progress for an effective coronavirus vaccine. "We are likely going to have maybe tens of millions of doses in the early part of (next) year," Fauci said in an interview with Reuters on Aug. 5. "But as we get into 2021, the manufacturers tell us that they will have hundreds of millions and likely a billion doses by the end of 2021. So I think the process is moving along at a pretty favorable pace."
The virus will probably not disappear completely.
A vaccine may certainly help lessen the impact of COVID-19, but it's not likely that it will eliminate the virus completely. "Historically, if you get a vaccine that has a moderate to high degree of efficacy, and you combine with that prudent public health measures, we can put this behind us," Fauci said in the interview with Reuters. "I don't think we're going to eradicate this from the planet… because it's such a highly transmissible virus, that seems unlikely."
This will not be the last time we experience a health crisis.
Although there is still much work to be done to contain COVID-19, this is not an isolated health crisis. "I think you have to assume that there are more viruses that are still lurking because we know historically we've had outbreaks long before I've been around, even before recorded history," Fauci said on POLITICO's "Pulse Check" podcast Aug. 6.
That could underscore the importance of drawing learnings from this pandemic—for instance, working collectively as a community to slow the spread (i.e. wearing masks and avoiding large gatherings) and reforming healthcare to achieve equal care across all communities. And for more up-to-date information on the pandemic, sign up for our daily newsletter.