Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and a point person on the federal coronavirus response team, went on “Good Morning America” Tuesday to discuss the pandemic. Here are five key takeaways from the interview.
1. Trump trusts him — Asked if President Donald Trump trusts Fauci, in light of earlier comments the president made on Fox News in which he said he doesn’t always agree with the doctor, Fauci answered in the affirmative.
“I think he does,” Fauci said. “I think when you get statements like that, that doesn’t really reflect what actually goes on. I mean, I was at the White House yesterday at a task force meeting with the vice president. And everything that we discussed ... gets to the president, and he understands that. So I think that’s kind of a distraction to pit me against the president. We’re all on the same team.”
2. Six million COVID-19 cases in the US and some 183,000 deaths — In light of those numbers, Fauci was asked why Trump would retweet a theory suggesting only 9,000 Americans have died.
The theory surfaced after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention put out a report showing that about 94 percent of the people who died from COVID-19 in the US between the week ending Feb. 1 and the week ending Aug. 22 had other health conditions that also contributed to their passing.
“The CDC came out with a statement which really did reflect the reality that in fact, if you look at the people who have died of COVID disease, the point that the CDC was trying to make was that a certain percentage of them had nothing else but just COVID,” Fauci said on GMA. “That does not mean that someone who has hypertension or diabetes who dies of COVID didn’t die of COVID-19; they did. So the numbers that you’ve been hearing, the 180,000-plus deaths, are real deaths from COVID-19. Let there not be any confusion about that. It’s not 9,000 deaths from COVID-19. Its 180-plus thousand deaths.”
3. Changing guidelines — Fauci also was asked about recent changes to CDC testing guidelines that said testing for asymptomatic people who come in contact with someone infected isn’t necessary.
“That did create some confusion,” Fauci said. “The confusion has been straightened out now. The way that sentence was said, it gave the impression that they’re not concerned about community spread and that people who are asymptomatic should not be tested. ... There’s no doubt that there is asymptomatic infection and asymptomatic people can transmit, and you can and should test asymptomatic people. What the guideline was trying to do was to try to make the point that not everyone who wants to be tested should be tested, only if you need to be tested. Understandably that was confusing. Hopefully that’s been straightened out now.”
4. Reopening schools — Fauci was asked about school reopenings. He said there’s no blanket solution for the whole country.
“Obviously when you’re looking at opening schools, the country is a large country,” Fauci said. “There are parts of the country that we call green zones, where you could ... with real impunity open schools as long as you’re careful about things, wearing masks and things like that. But there are areas of the country, part of the yellow zone and certainly in the red zone, when there’s a lot of viral activity in the community. You have to take a careful look about if and how you’re going to open the schools. You may be able to do it with certain precautions — physical separating, alternating of classes, hybrid approaches. But there are some areas where there is such a high degree of infection that you really want to be careful if you do that. ... The best way to get schools open is to decrease the level and rate of infection in your community.”
5. Potential vaccines — He also was asked about potential coronavirus vaccines that have entered Phase III trials.
“You don’t want a vaccine to be available widely to the American public unless it’s been shown to be safe and effective,” Fauci said. “Safe and effective.”