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 Thursday evening with actor Matthew McConaughey. There are three key reasons why many island nations and Asian countries, such as New Zealand, Singapore and South Korea, have managed to control coronavirus, he said.
Aside from social distancing and masks, he said these countries took many correct approaches to deal with their respective outbreaks and, as a result, have created the right environment to begin opening up their economies again. Public health and economic health are not mutually exclusive, he added, or a matter of either/or. This, Fauci said, is what we can learn those countries:
1. Outdoors is better than indoors: In an interview on Instagram FB, -0.02%, McConaughey asked Fauci if certain smaller island nations have more successfully beaten back coronavirus because residents spend more time outdoors. Fauci replied, “It’s conceivable that that’s the case.” Fauci added that outdoors is far preferable for sports, restaurants and holding school classes.
Fauci also said 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.” Instead, he outlined three key steps:
2. Shut down decisively to stop outbreaks: And 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.”
Actor Matthew McConaughey interviewed infectious-disease specialist Dr. Anthony Fauci on Instagram on Thursday evening.
3. Contract tracing helps stop community transmission. Fauci said it’s crucial to create the conditions to allow authorities to conduct contact tracing, and prevent community transmission. He used sports as an example. “If you’re in a red zone where the level of virus is so high, sure you can try to do sports normally, but the chances are you’re going to get people infected,” he said.
Young people who play or attend sports events are more likely to become “super spreaders” and behave as if they don’t have the virus and be the source of community transmissions, Fauci said in an interview on Instagram FB, -0.02% with actor Matthew McConaughey. “Many of them are going to be young, so they’re not going to get sick. They go out into the community.”
Countries like South Korea, New Zealand and China — where the virus is believed to have originated in a food market in Wuhan late last year — appear to have had more success in beating back COVID-19. Earlier this week, for example, New Zealand moved fast to lock down Auckland after the return of COVID after 102 days of reporting no new infections.
“Act as if you have COVID, and as though people around you have COVID,” Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern told a press conference. The island nation moved quickly and decisively to respond to the pandemic, banning non-New Zealand nationals traveling from China before there were any cases in the country, and those nationals who arrived from China were forced to quarantine for 14 days.
COVID-19 has now killed at least 765,310 people worldwide, and the U.S. ranks 10th in the world for deaths per 100,000 people (50.3), Johns Hopkins University says. In sharp contrast, South Korea has had 0.59 COVID-related deaths per 100,000 people, Singapore reported just 0.48 COVID-related deaths per 100,000 people, while New Zealand had a rate of 0.45.
As of Saturday, the U.S. has the world’s highest number of confirmed COVID-19 cases (5,314,021) and deaths (168,458). Worldwide, confirmed cases are now at 21,183,539. The Dow Jones Industrial Index DJIA, +0.12% closed Friday with a small gain, while the S&P 500 SPX, -0.01% and Nasdaq COMP, -0.20% closed slighly lower as investors await progress on a vaccine.
AstraZeneca AZN, -1.09% in combination with Oxford University, BioNTech SE BNTX, -3.32% and partner Pfizer PFE, -0.28%, GlaxoSmithKline GSK, -1.55%, Johnson & Johnson JNJ, +0.16%, Merck & Co. MERK, -1.51%, Moderna MRNA, +1.94%, and Sanofi SAN, -1.32%, among others, are currently working on COVID-19 vaccines.