The Single Biggest Lesson Dr. Fauci Has Learned From the COVID Pandemic

This is what the top immunologist has learned six months into the coronavirus pandemic.

No individual has become more prominent in the handling of the coronavirus pandemic in the U.S. than Anthony Fauci, MD. The nation's top immunologist has become of a lauded source of reliable information for some, and something of a lightning rod for criticism for others. Now, six months into the coronavirus pandemic stateside, Fauci says he's learned a lot about the virus, of course, but a whole lot more. He recently shared his biggest takeaways during a Grand Rounds session with Harvard Medical School on Sept. 10. Here's what Fauci says are the lessons he's learned from COVID-19. And for the latest on the coronavirus, check out COVID Is 14 Times Deadlier If You're Over This Age, Research Shows.

"Realize that we don't know it all from the get-go."

two asian researchers holding blood vial

Admitting one doesn't immediately have all the answers is one critical lesson Fauci's learned. "We've really got to realize that, from day one, you don't know it all," he said among his peers at Harvard. "You've just got to be humble enough to realize that we don't know it all from the get-go and even as we get into it." And for more on COVID and other updates, sign up for our daily newsletter.

"You've got to be flexible enough to change."


In addition to knowing your limits, Fauci said, "you've got to be flexible enough to change your recommendations, your guidelines, your policies, depending upon the information and the data as it evolves." He then mentioned the disparity between what we knew in February of 2020 when the pandemic started to what we know now. "The role of masks, the role of aerosol, the role of indoor vs. outdoors, closed spaces," he listed. And for more mask information we have now, check out One Major Upside of Wearing a Face Mask You Didn't Know.

"Don't ever, ever underestimate the potential of the pandemic."

Man holding hand of dying woman

"When you're experiencing an outbreak, don't ever, ever underestimate the potential of the pandemic," Fauci said. "We've been through this before. Remember HIV?" he asked. It started with "only five gay men, then 26 gay men, and then it's only a gay man's disease." Fast-forward a few decades and now, "you have 78 million people who have been infected, and 28, 30, 30-plus million have died." In conclusion, Fauci said, "Don't ever estimate as it evolves and don't try to look at the rosy side of things." And for more on where COVID is headed, check out This Is When Experts Say the Next COVID Surge Will Happen in the U.S.

"Always do good, ethically sound, scientifically sound research."

scientist wearing blue gloves holding vaccine vial

Another major lesson Fauci has learned? "We can do and should always do good, ethically sound, scientifically sound research during the outbreak," he explained. "This idea of throwing everything to somebody because it's desperate doesn't work. It's gotten us into trouble with other diseases," he said, without getting into specifics. "So let's not forget the fact that although you want to get the best intervention to someone as quickly as possible, that there is a major role for ethically sound, controlled clinical trials. We have to do that." And for more on Fauci's thoughts on treatments and vaccines, check out Dr. Fauci Just Said He's "Quite Disturbed" by This New COVID Development.

"Make a commitment to address the social determinants of health."

young black man looking out window wearing face mask
Shutterstock/Robin J Gentry

"If ever there is going to be a real incentive for us to now make a commitment to address the social determinants of health, it's got to be now," Fauci said, concluding his list of lessons. "We have 13 percent African Americans and close to 50 percent of new infections in the United States are African Americans," he pointed out. "Look at the number of hospitalizations with COVID with African Americans and Latinx. We have got to address that. This has to be a real eye-opener for us to do that." And for more on this, check out Dr. Fauci Says This May Be "The One Silver Lining" of the COVID Pandemic.

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