Fauci warns COVID-19 will not be eradicated, ‘new normal’ to stick around


BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WIAT) — With all 50 states reopening in some fashion ahead of Memorial Day, confusion surrounds our ever-evolving situation, and the key question remains: What does our “new normal” look like?

“We’re not going to eradicate this virus. It is so transmissible that it’s going to be around for a while. Can we eliminate it? Likely, if we do it correctly and we get a vaccine,” Dr. Anthony Fauci said in an interview with sister station WIAT-TV in Birmingham, “The new normal will likely be for at least a cycle or more through seasons…”

Fauci has described the COVID-19 pandemic as a “worst nightmare” scenario, but he’s not without hope.

“The real determining factor to put this into the history books, will be if we get a safe and highly effective vaccine,” he added.

A coronavirus vaccine is already showing promise in early clinical trials, but its distribution is, at best, months away. And for people sick with the virus, emerging treatments like Remdesivir are encouraging.

“[Remdesivir is going to] be distributed hopefully as equitably as possible, based on the burden of disease and hospitalizations throughout the country,” said Fauci.

In examining the nation’s response to the virus, Fauci is focused on the future.

“You can always find something that you could’ve done better, because we’re just not perfect. But we’ve got to do what we can with what we have,” he explained.

As it relates to getting out of the house on Memorial Day weekend, Fauci says to do so with caution.

“If you look at the successful control — be they in other countries or even in our own country — the importance of the simple things that we keep talking about: washing hands frequently, wearing a mask and keeping a physical distance, there are so many things that you can still do and enjoy while you’re doing that,” said Fauci. “That transcends all the guidelines. Just keep hold of that and I think we’ll be fine.”

Fauci’s television appearances have been somewhat limited in the last few weeks as President Trump has pushed for the reopening of states across the U.S. Despite his lack of TV time, Fauci told CNN on Thursday night that he’s still an active part of the coronavirus task force. He noted the task force has been shifting its priorities to reopening the economy, “but that’s not to the diminution of the scientific issues.”

Here is Dr. Fauci’s complete quote when discussion control, elimination and eradication:

“When you’re thinking about viruses, there is control, there is elimination and there is eradication. Control means you have a virus in the community but you’re controlling it at a low enough level that it isn’t a public health issue. Elimination is… there is still virus on the planet, but you have eliminated it from where you are. For example, we eliminated polio from the United States… we’ve eliminated small pox [from the United States] and we’ve eliminated measles [from the United States]… except when people don’t get vaccinated. Very few viruses have been eradicated. The big one is small pox that we’ve eradicated… We’re not going to eradicate this virus. It is so transmissible that it’s going to be around for a while. Can we eliminate it? Likely if we do it correctly and we get a vaccine. Will we control it? We already, in certain regions, cities and states in this country, are doing that. The new normal will likely be, for at least a cycle or more through seasons, that we will have to have special precautions for things that we likely should have been doing anyway —washing hands as often as possible, being careful in crowds, wearing a mask if in fact you have a density of infection in your particular physical location where you are. I think this is going to get better and better. The real determining factor, to put this into the history books, will be if we get a safe and highly effective vaccine. If we do that, we can render this virus somewhere between eradication and elimination. I don’t think we’re going to eradicate it for the reasons I mentioned, but I certainly think we can eliminate it from certain regions of the world and certainly control it better.”

— Dr. Anthony Fauci

Most patients with COVID-19 have a mild respiratory illness including fever, cough and shortness of breath. The Tennessee Department of Health strongly encourages Tennesseans to wash your hands often with soap and water and to not touch your eyes, nose or mouth with unwashed hands.

The CDC recommends that for the next 8 weeks, organizers (whether groups or individuals) cancel or postpone in-person events that consist of 10 people or more throughout the United States.

High-risk individuals are defined as adults over 60 years old or people of any age with serious chronic medical conditions such as: Heart disease, diabetes, or lung disease.

The Tennessee Department of Health offers a COVID-19 Public Information Line at 877-857-2945, with information available daily from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Central Time.

Stay with News 2 for continuing coverage of the COVID-19 Pandemic.


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