Anthony Fauci, MD, director of the National Institute for National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, originally had a big part in the daily White House news briefings about COVID-19. After a few months, he fell out of favor with the administration when he publically disagreed with President Trump over issues such as wearing masks and possible COVID-19 cures.
As of this morning, the Johns Hopkins University Coronavirus Resource Center reported that 1,115,079 people around the world died from COVID-10; 27,541,983 have recovered from the infection. The United States leads the world in the virus deaths, at 219,765 deaths. Brazil is second at 153,905 deaths. Dr. Fauci appeared last night on the TV news program 60 Minutes to discuss his views on the pandemic. Millions of people follow his recommendations, but many doubt him – those who don’t believe that COVID-19 is a serious illness.
One issue that is frequently discussed in social media is the fear that Dr. Fauci wants to shut down the entire country. Dr. Fauci denies this and does not advocate for a national shut-down of the U.S. at this point. During the television interview, he said “[I]t would have to be really, really bad,” to justify such a shut-down. “[T]he country is fatigued with restrictions,” he said. Instead, the country needs to follow strong public health measures in order to reopen the economy and get people back to work.
What public health measures? Wearing masks, maintaining social distancing, and washing your hands.
When the virus first spread to the U.S., Dr. Fauci and many other experts said that the public did not have to wear masks to protect themselves from contracting the infection. At that point, researchers believed that the virus was spread more by touch than by the air. And those who work in public health feared that if the public bought masks, there would be few left for the healthcare providers who depended on them. However, he changed his recommendation with a month when he realized that he was wrong. He has strongly advocated using masks since.
Dr. Fauci tried to put the mask debate to rest during the interview. He stated that it was clear that cloth masks work in reducing infection transmission – maybe not as well as a surgical mask or an N95 respirator, but they work. “[M]eta-analysis studies show that, contrary to what we thought, masks really do work in preventing infection.”
Masks aren’t the only thing Dr. Fauci and the White House clashed on. Dr. Fauci has disagreed in public about the president’s downplaying of the virus. He disagreed with President Trump’s promotion of hydroxychloroquine as a cure or preventative for COVID-19, as well as the timing for a vaccine. However, he has not spoken out in public very often. “I certainly have not been allowed to go on many, many, many shows that have asked for me,” he said in the interview.
President Trump’s response to the interview
During a campaign call earlier today, President Trump said Dr. Fauci was a ‘disaster’ who’s been around for “500 years.”
Mr. Trump, calling from his own hotel in Las Vegas to his campaign staff, said people were tired of Dr. Fauci, and that the country wanted to move on from the pandemic. A move that might be difficult to achieve realistically, considering that 32 states are reporting a rise in cases and 13 states have no change from last week, the vast majority of which had rising cases.
Dr. Fauci, the long-time head of the NIAID, is credited with developing “effective therapies for formerly fatal inflammatory and immune-mediated diseases such as polyarteritis nodosa, granulomatosis with polyangiitis (formerly Wegener’s granulomatosis), and lymphomatoid granulomatosis.” His contributions to understanding how HIV attacks the body and contributing to important therapies are world renowned.
In 2016, he participated in another interview with 60 Minutes. During that interview, he shared his concern that there would be a worldwide pandemic not too far in the future. He stated that it wouldn’t be impossible to have an influenza-like virus, similar to the influenza pandemic in 1918. And now his fears have come true.
Vaccines in the works
Research on a vaccine against the novel coronavirus began already in January as Chinese scientists worked on the virus’ genetic sequence. This helped researchers around the world get a head start on their own research. There are currently 4 vaccine candidates in phase 3 trials in the U.S. , and others around the world.
The work is progressing rapidly and this rapid pace is concerning some who know that it usually takes years to develop a safe and effective vaccine. Given this concern, 60 Minutes wanted to know if Dr. Fauci be vaccinated if a vaccine comes to market. “[I]f the final outcome is that the FDA approves it, I will take it,” he said.