Fauci: 'Something very strange' about COVID

"I have not seen anything where you have a virus that in 40% of the people has no symptoms, and those who have symptoms, 80% of them have very mild to moderate symptoms that don't require any significant medical intervention. And then you have 20-25% of people who are devastated," Fauci told The Center for Strategic and International Studies' (CSIS) Senior Vice President Stephen Morrison on Monday.

"There's something very strange about a virus that in most people barely bothers them, and in others it kills them. We still don't know why that's the case right now. We need to find that out," he added.

Fauci's remarks came after some of the first U.S. healthcare workers received doses of the coronavirus vaccine and as the death toll in the U.S. crossed 300,000.

Video Transcript

STEPHEN MORRISON: We started with zero knowledge of this virus. OK, what did we learn?

ANTHONY FAUCI: Well, we've learned that this is one of the most, if not the most, unusual virus that any of us have ever dealt with. Certainly, in my 36 years as director of the Institute, I have not seen anything where you have a virus that in the-- 40% of the people has no symptoms, and those who have symptoms, 80% of them, have very mild to moderate symptoms that don't require any significant medical intervention. And then you have 20% to 25% of people who are devastated, as attested by the almost 300,000 deaths.

There's something very strange about a virus that in most people barely bothers them and in others it kills them. We still don't understand why that's the case. Right now, we need to find that out.

STEPHEN MORRISON: So do you anticipate next fall that most people will be back in classrooms, people will be eating in restaurants, people will be traveling on planes to take vacations or engage in business?

ANTHONY FAUCI: It's a big if, and the if is is it's up to us. If we get 75%, 80% of the population vaccinated, I think that's eminently doable, what you've just said, by the fall. Because we will start vaccinating the general population people, who don't fall in any of the high priority groups, probably as we get into April. We'll have April, May, June, and July. We'd have three months, four months of vaccinating everybody with a prime and a boost.

By the time you get into the fall, September and October, if we get that proportion of the population vaccinated, we should be able to clearly be feeling very comfortable about schools, as well as getting some of the other functions that we have withheld up to now, theaters, restaurants, things like that.

I don't believe we're going to be able to throw the masks away and forget about physical separation in congregate settings for a while, probably likely until we get into the late fall, and early next winter, but I think we can do it. The numbers will guide us.

So I don't think it's going to be subtle. We're going to see a dramatic change in the dynamics of the outbreak, and when we do, then we've got to cautiously and prudently begin to pull back a bit on mitigation methods, not just abandoning them all, but gradually and prudently pulling back.