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We've just passed a grim coronavirus milestone: COVID-19 has now killed about as many Americans as the 1918-19 Flu. And it's nowhere near over. How can you stay safe, so you and your family don't become the next headline? Dr. Anthony Fauci, the chief medical advisor to the President and the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, spoke with Major Garrett on CBS's The Takeout to discuss just that. Read on for 8 essential points that can save your life—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had COVID.
Dr. Fauci Said American COVID Deaths Surpassing the 1918-19 Flu are "Depressing and Horrible"
With more American deaths than the 1918-19 Flu, 675,000 and counting—"That number in and of itself, no matter what you compare it with, is a daunting and I believe depressing and horrible number to see so many Americans die from an outbreak," said Dr. Fauci. "The pandemic flu of 1918 is historic. I mean, we all refer to that as historically, the mother of all outbreaks, had killed 50 to a hundred million people worldwide and 650 or so thousand people in the United States. The population of the world at that point was one third what it is now. So on a per capita basis, we are not even one third to where we were then. However we shouldn't then say, well, it's okay and diminish it. 670,000 deaths is extraordinary. And the thing that that has to be linked up with is: We don't want that to get any worse. tI's important that back in 1918, they did not have vaccines. We now have a highly effective tool to blunt this outbreak and to essentially crush it if we get ourselves in this country and the rest of the world vaccinated. So there's a similarity in the extraordinary number of deaths in both of these now, historic pandemics, but a really important difference is that we have a tool now that we did not have back then." Take advantage of that tool and get vaccinated, he begged.
Dr. Fauci Said This Outbreak is the "Worst We Have Seen on This Planet in Well Over 100 Years"
Early on, "I had a fear that we would have a pandemic," said Dr. Fauci. "I have to be totally honest with you: I had really no imagination that we were going to get into the several hundreds of thousands of deaths. So this outbreak really, as we said, correctly, is the worst that we have seen on this planet in well over a hundred years. We always talk about 1918 in the context of a terrible chapter in the history of infectious diseases. Unfortunately, we are living in such a chapter now and people 50, a hundred years from now are going to be looking back at this, talking about this historical terrible pandemic that claimed so many lives, not only in the United States, but worldwide."
Dr. Fauci Said Trump Thought COVID Would "Just Go Away" and His Decisions Were Based on "Anecdotes"
Asked to compare Presidents, Fauci said Biden has an "entirely different approach towards the outbreak. In the sense of we have a team, have people at different levels with different areas of interest and expertise, addressing the outbreak right now. So I am the chief medical advisor to President Biden for COVID-19, but I also work on a very close daily basis with the Surgeon General, with a variety of other individuals with the director of the CDC, literally on a daily basis. So it is a total immersion in addressing this outbreak. Obviously there's no secret that I had to under certain circumstances come at odds with my opinion of certain scientific issues under President Trump. I didn't enjoy that. I had nothing at all against him as president or as a person, but I had to speak out when things were said that were just scientifically not true. And that projections were made that were quite unreasonable, such as the epidemic is going to go away, it's going to disappear, that certain drugs, which [were touted] as being effective, but were never proven at all under any circumstances to be effective. So that was uncomfortable. I didn't enjoy that. Whereas now, what we have is, you know, things don't always go right, but it's always focusing on the science as the fundamental basis of the decisions you make now under the current situation…..And you could make sure that what you do is always founded on fundamental scientific principles and anecdotes [don't] work. And one of the things that was a bit disturbing in the prior situation was anecdotal."
Dr. Fauci Was Taken By Surprise by the Delta Variant
Biden declared our independence from COVID around July 4th but then "we all got hit badly and taken by surprise major by the Delta variant, which was just, I mean, just when you think things are really bad when you're dealing with a historic pandemic along comes a variant that has such a strong capability of efficiently spreading from person to person that it breaks all the rules and pushes everything aside and completely dominates the picture," said Dr. Fauci. "When we were talking about hopefully being as it were independent from the virus, because we had a vaccine that we were implementing quite well at a good pace.But we add a variant—the Alpha variant, which really was not very comparatively speaking, nowhere near the transmissible capability of the Delta variant. So what can understand how you hope for, and would have wished and could predict that we would be doing very well. And then all of a sudden comes this Delta variant and bingo, all your plans are turned upside down. That happened. And that's what I mean that sometimes things don't go as well as you'd like."
Dr. Fauci Said This Winter Doesn't Have to be Dark
Will this be a dark winter, asked Garrett? "it does not have to be," said Fauci. "And that's really the difference" between last winter and "now because we now have, even with the Delta variant, the vaccines that we have are highly effective and safe yet we still have about 70 million people in this country who are eligible for vaccination who have not yet been vaccinated. Some have reasons that when you speak to them and answer their questions, they'll change their mind. Others, for reasons that appear to be ideological and perhaps political just don't want to get vaccinated. There's no room for that when you're dealing with the public health prices. So if you're asking me, are we going to have a dark winter? You know, if we don't get the people vaccinated who need to be vaccinated, and we get that conflating with an influenza, we could have a dark, bad winter, but we could also avoid a dark, bad winter, if we get people vaccinated to a very high degree over the next several weeks to a month or two."
Dr. Fauci Warned That Other Mutations May Arise—but Delta is the "Big Bully on the Block"
The Mu variant is "not an immediate threat," said Dr. Fauci. "It has some mutations that when you look in vitro in the test tube, it can elude antibodies such as monoclonal antibodies, antibodies associated with convalescent plasma antibodies associated with post vaccine Sera. It is potentially capable of doing that. However, it is such a very small fraction of the isolates in this country. That, that's what I mean when I say it's not an immediate threat, you have to keep your eye out on it and watch it very carefully. But the Delta variant is completely crowding that out. It's kind of like the big bully on the block that doesn't let any of the other variants in because it's so efficiently spreads from human to human."
Dr. Fauci Said This About Sporting Events
"Is it safe to put 18,000 people inside a basketball or a hockey arena? Just to name two, without any proof of vaccination," asked Garrett. "That gets to a, to a very controversial topic," said Dr. Fauci. "And that is the proof of vaccination and who is going to document and validate and verify the vaccination. I think it's perfectly reasonable for some sports organizations to say, in order to come into this particular activity, you need to be vaccinated. And that is actually going on. There are certain situations where if you want to enter into an activity, you've got to show that you're vaccinated."
How to Stay Safe Out There
Follow the public health fundamentals and help end this pandemic, no matter where you live—get vaccinated ASAP; if you live in an area with low vaccination rates, wear an N95 face mask, don't travel, social distance, avoid large crowds, don't go indoors with people you're not sheltering with (especially in bars), practice good hand hygiene, and to protect your life and the lives of others, don't visit any of these 35 Places You're Most Likely to Catch COVID.