Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, delivered some blunt messages to the public during an online video interview with a Hollywood actor on Thursday evening. Fauci said there are a few key reasons why many island nations and Asian countries have managed to control coronavirus better than the U.S., and he said Americans should take note.
In an interview on Matthew McConaughey’s Instagram Story FB, +0.54%, the actor asked Fauci if certain smaller island nations have more successfully beaten back coronavirus because their residents spent more time outdoors. Fauci replied, “It’s conceivable that that’s the case.” Fauci added that outdoors is always better than indoors for sports, restaurants and school classes.
Asked why so many Asian countries have had relative success in controlling outbreaks of COVID-19, Fauci said, “When they shut down, they shut down like, ‘Bang!’ When we shut down, it was never in the level that the Asian countries did.” Fauci said the stop/start and disparate approaches to shutting down in the U.S. has not worked out as well.
Fauci also said it’s not a simple choice between public health and economic health. “The quicker you pull together and get it down, the quicker you get back to normal. We’re all in this together. Unless we do this together, we’re not going to get this under control,” he said. “To think that you can ignore the biologic and get the economy back, it’s not going to happen. You have got to do both.”
The doctor compared the pandemic to other challenging times in American history. “Our country has been through very, very difficult situations,” he said. “We’ve been through a Depression, we’ve been through a World War. We pulled together through 9/11.” But, Fauci added, if you are not abiding by social distancing and wearing a mask, “You are part of the problem rather than the solution.”
Also see: Dr. Fauci tells MarketWatch: I would not get on a plane or eat inside a restaurant
COVID-19 has now killed at least 751,910 people worldwide, and the U.S. ranks 10th in the world for deaths per 100,000 people, Johns Hopkins University says. As of Thursday evening, the U.S. still had the world’s highest number of confirmed COVID-19 cases (5,244,238) and deaths (166,971). Worldwide, the virus has infected at least 20,739,537 people.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average DJIA, -0.28% and S&P 500 SPX, -0.20% ended marginally lower Thursday, while the Nasdaq Composite COMP, +0.27% ended slightly higher as investors awaited progress between the Democrats and Republicans on round two of a fiscal stimulus during the coronavirus pandemic, and progress on a possible vaccine.
In the absence of a vaccine, health experts say social distancing and masks are the only alternative as “herd immunity” — where those who are immune protect the most vulnerable in the population — is not feasible for coronavirus. That requires a very high level of population immunity for COVID-19, and for the virus to not mutate.
Fauci told McConaughey that aiming for 100% herd immunity, instead of maintaining safety procedures and waiting for a vaccine in early 2021, would have dire consequences. “If everyone contracted it, a lot of people are going to die,” he said. “You’re talking about a substantial portion of the population. The death toll would be enormous and totally unacceptable.”
A plethora of companies are currently working on COVID-19 vaccines: AstraZeneca AZN, -0.87% in combination with Oxford University, BioNTech SE BNTX, +2.73% and partner Pfizer PFE, -0.41%, GlaxoSmithKline GSK, -1.14%, Johnson & Johnson JNJ, -1.10%, Merck & Co. MERK, -2.36%, Moderna MRNA, -2.43% and Sanofi SAN, -1.73%, among others.