The nation’s top infectious disease doctor, Anthony Fauci, said the U.S. did not come down to a low enough coronavirus baseline before starting to reopen the country, leading to daily peaks of 70,000 cases and unequal state responses.
“When you look at our curve, it’s telling, and that’s the thing that bothers me. We went way up and we came down. We came down to a plateau of 20,000 cases per day. That is not a good baseline,” said Fauci during a Wednesday webinar with the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.
Fauci said in addition to the inadequate baseline, reopening brought on disparities in how local and state governments handled the pandemic, which led to another peak of infections which remain in some areas.
“We had the kind of response that was not as well suited to what the dynamics of this outbreak is, and what happened is that we had a bit of a disparate response,” said Fauci.
He added, “We didn’t do it uniformly. Some states did not pay attention to the benchmarks, or the checkpoints. Others did it fine, but the citizenry within a state or within a city actually did an all-or-nothing phenomenon.”
Fauci compared the U.S. to other countries that attained a very low baseline of cases and had success in reopening. He said controlling a low baseline in America can still be achieved by following fundamental principles such as social distancing.
“We can do much better and we can do much better without locking down,” said Fauci in the panel moderated by CNN’s Sanjay Gupta.
All Americans will have to join together to accomplish the goal though, said Fauci, noting worrisome photos circulating on social media of people gathering at bars and restaurants without wearing masks.
“As long as you have any member of society, any demographic group who is not seriously trying to get to the end game of suppressing this, it will continue to smolder and smolder and smolder,” said Fauci.
Despite the challenges the U.S. continues to face, Fauci said he is “cautiously optimistic” both about not having another shutdown and having a vaccine by early 2021.
He highlighted Phase 1 data from some vaccine trials that show levels of neutralizing antibodies in participants that are comparable to, and sometimes better than people who have recovered from coronavirus.
“One of the tenets of vaccinology is that if your vaccine induces a response that’s at least equivalent to natural infection, you don’t have a guarantee, but that’s a pretty good predictor of success,” said Fauci.
Looking toward the future, Fauci said “we will have another pandemic for absolute certain, there is no doubt about that,” and developing a universal coronavirus vaccine to fight all types of the virus can be the next step in prevention.
He added: “Shame on us if we are not prepared for the next coronavirus pandemic outbreak.”
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