While girding Americans for the possibility of a spike in COVID-19 deaths, Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, also held out some hope on Tuesday.
During an appearance on CNN, Fauci called the next two weeks “a critical time.”
Noting that Americans have been largely adhering to the administration’s policy of social distancing to slow the spread of the virus, Fauci said the strategy could be working.
“We have very intensive mitigation … with the physical separation. If you look now, we’re starting to see glimmers that that is actually having some dampening effect,” Fauci said, while making clear that the numbers of Americans infected and dying remains at a serious level.
“We clearly are seeing cases going up. The people in New York are in a difficult situation,” he said.
“We are still in a very difficult situation,” Fauci added. “We hope, and I believe it will happen, that we may start seeing a turnaround. But we haven’t seen it yet. We’re just pushing on the mitigation to hope that we do see that turnaround.”
The doctor explained that the both the number of new cases and the rate of increase are key measures. He went on to say that cases will rise at an exponential rate until the peak of the epidemic is reached.
“Once you start to level off, then you’re going to have less people who are going to be going into intensive care,” Fauci said. “And then later on, later on, because it always lags, you’ll see a decrease in deaths.”
“What we’re starting to see right now is just the inklings. And I don’t want to put too much stock on it, because you don’t want to get overconfident, you just want to keep pushing at what you’re doing,” he continued.
“You’re starting to see that the daily increases are not in that steep incline, they’re starting to be able to possibly flatten out.”
In an interview with Vanity Fair published Tuesday, Fauci repeated that hope, but added a caution.
“We hope — we don’t know for sure — that we’re starting to see the leveling off of new admissions to hospitals. That’s the first sign that we may be making some headway with our mitigation strategies,” he told the outlet. “But multiple cities are at different timing of what their problem is.
“We have New Orleans now, we have a situation in Detroit and Chicago. So you will see different waves of increases, sharp inflections, peaks and then turnarounds. I think the most important thing that we need to do as a nation is to very aggressively implement the mitigation strategies.”
Fauci was also asked about his relationship with President Donald Trump.
“I take the tack that I will say what’s true and whatever happens, happens. As a matter of fact, in fairness to him, the president has listened very carefully to what I’ve said,” the doctor replied.
“He’s taken my recommendations almost invariably, and he has never really contradicted things that I have recommended to him. He listens. I mean, there’s a lot out there in the press about conflict between the both of us. There’s absolutely none. There really isn’t.”
When asked about the possibility of a “second wave” of COVID-19, Fauci said the virus is not going away.
“I feel that it is highly likely that we will have — I don’t know whether you want to call it a second wave — but we will have a return of infections as we get into the next season,” he said.
But Fauci also voiced optimism regarding the scope of the virus’ potential return.
“I believe given the fact that we’ll be much, much better prepared, there will be a number of people who have already been infected so that they will be immune,” he said.
“The second iteration of this will very likely be much less severe. That’s for a number of reasons. So I don’t see this coming back and hitting us the way it hit us the first time around.”
As of Tuesday, the United States had 189,510 confirmed coronavirus cases, according to Johns Hopkins. Over four thousand have died and roughly seven thousand have recovered.
Trump himself said at Tuesday’s coronavirus task force briefing that difficult days are coming.
“I want every American to be prepared for the hard days that lie ahead. We’re going to go through a very tough two weeks,” the president said.
Although Trump expressed confidence that America will “start seeing some real light at the end of the tunnel,” he also did not mince words about the state of the pandemic.
“This is going to be a very painful, very, very painful two weeks,” he said.
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