Coronavirus numbers are surging across America—and vaccinations are lagging, with only about 3 million administered, well short of the administration's 20 million end-of-year goal. How did we get here, and how can we stop COVID-19 from rampaging through our towns—and our bodies? Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation's top infectious disease expert and the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, spoke with Andrea Mitchell yesterday on MSNBC about the "worst possible" timing of it all. Read on to discover how you can avoid getting sick—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had Coronavirus.
Dr. Fauci Says Masks Becoming a "Political Issue" Doomed Us but Thinks We'll Get Somewhat Back to Normal by Fall
"Well, the pandemic emerged from the standpoint of a societal issue at the worst possible time," said Dr. Fauci, when asked to look back on this "tough year," "because anybody who views what's going on throughout the world, but particularly in our own country, there's a great deal of divisiveness in the country. And if there's any situation in which one needs to pull together, because we are all in it together, it's when you have an infectious disease outbreak of pandemic proportions. And the divisiveness that has permeated this year—and it has been striking in that has made it very, very difficult. What has gone on, if you have the wearing of masks or not turn into a political issue is not helpful when you're trying to implement a public health program. I think that's obvious to anybody that that does not help when you have some people feel that an outbreak that is killing people at a record proportion in which you have a couple of hundred thousand new infections a day and two to 3,000 deaths per day."
He said the debate between wearing a mask vs. shutting down was a false choice. "We can do both, we can keep the country open and we can abide by the public health measures," Fauci said. "That together with a vaccine, I believe in 2021 we will see this behind us. … It's not going to happen in the first few months. If we do it correctly, hopefully, as we get into the end of the summer, the beginning of the fall of 2021, we can start to approach some degree of normality."
Fauci went on to express bafflement that some people still think the virus isn't that big a deal, or will "go away"—or isn't real at all.
"There are still people in this country that are saying it's a hoax or that it doesn't exist, or that it's fake news," said Fauci. "That's unimaginable to me that with all of the death and suffering that's going on right now, that people are blowing it off saying that it doesn't exist. And yet you go to certain regions of the country, even in areas where the hospitals are being stressed and strained to take care of the people: There still is skepticism as to whether this is real. You're not going to get a good public health response. That's unified and consistent when you have that kind of attitude in certain parts of the country. And indeed we do have that kind of attitude in certain parts of the country."
Dr. Fauci Explained the Vaccination Delay
As for the vaccine delay, Fauci had an explanation. "Well, there were a couple of things going on," he said. "First. I had the opportunity to have a nice conversation yesterday morning, early in the morning with general Gus Perna"—the chief operating officer of Operation Warp Speed, responsible for distribution—"about just this issue that we were hoping that as we ended December 31st, we will have had 20 million doses in the arms of individuals. That's not the case. What we hope is that they will be now gaining momentum as we catch up with this. Whenever you have a very large operation, such as trying to vaccinate an entire country with a new vaccine, there always will be bumps in the road and hiccups about that. We hope that that's what this is a reflection of. And as we get into the first week or so of January, we'll catch up quickly with that 20 million dose in the arms projection that we had."
How to Survive This Pandemic
Well, one thing you can do is…wear a face mask. Fauci feels it's the best way to save lives and keep the economy open, which should appeal to both sides of the aisle. "We don't want to shut down completely," Fauci said in an online interview with Howard Bauchner, the Journal of the American Medical Association's editor-in-chief, earlier this fall. "That's almost radioactive now when you say that because of the situation of not wanting to hurt the economy. Well, if you don't want to shut down, at least do the fundamental, basic things…the flagship of which is wearing a mask."
The other thing you can do is get vaccinated when it's available. It's "safe," promises Fauci, 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.