As winter approaches and the flu season begins, Dr. Anthony Fauci has some timely suggestions for young Americans on how best to deal with the coronavirus pandemic. Follow the science, he said, not the politics. “My advice to young people is — unless you want to be a politician — stay away from the politics and let science and good data guide your policy.”
Shortly after Fauci’s comments late last week, Twitter TWTR, -0.47% blocked a post by Dr. Scott Atlas, one of President Donald Trump’s top health advisers, after he claimed face masks were ineffective in preventing the spread of the coronavirus. “Masks work? NO” he tweeted Sunday, followed by a thread of posts that misrepresented scientific findings on masks.
The comments by Atlas, a Stanford radiologist with no background in infectious diseases, contradicts guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the World Health Organization and Fauci. Fauci has previously said that vulnerable people should also think about wearing a mask in the home if they’re around people who have had contact with others.
“ ‘My advice to young people is — unless you want to be a politician — stay away from the politics and let science and good data guide your policy.’ ”
Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and an expert in infectious diseases for four decades, Johns Hopkins University Health Policy Forum that social distancing, avoiding crowds, washing your hands and wearing a mask does not involve a complete shutdown. “It’s still not too late to vigorously apply good public-health measures.”
He said he wanted to make one thing clear. “Whenever we public-health officials talk about implementing public-health measures people think that we want to shut the country down,” he said. “We don’t want to do that. What we want to do is use public-health measures in a prudent, careful way to help us to reopen the country, and to reopen the economy to get jobs back.”
After a surge of 70,000 new COVID-19 cases a day in the summer, Fauci said, “It’s now stuck at around 40,000 to 50,000. You can’t enter into the cool months of the fall, and the cold months of the winter with a high community infection baseline.” People will spend more time indoors, he added. “That’s when you have to be particularly careful about the spread of respiratory-born disease.”
Fauci said his children won’t visit for the holidays. “Thanksgiving is going to look very different this year,” he said in a separate interview with CBS last week. “I would love to have it with my children, but my children are in three separate states throughout the country and, in order for them to get here, they would all have to go to an airport and get on a plane.”
He also said that voting in person is just as safe as going to Starbucks, assuming other people wear masks. “I think it’s just as safe to go and get a cup of coffee in a Starbucks in which everyone’s wearing a mask and doing the things they should be doing.” Schedule permitting, he said he may go to his local school in person to cast his vote in the presidential election on Nov. 3.
“ ‘You can’t enter into the cool months of the fall, and the cold months of the winter with a high community infection baseline.’ ”
Some 85% of U.S. adults say they wear a mask most or all of the time, according to a Pew Research Center survey conducted Aug. 3 to Aug. 16. When asked that same question in June, only 65% of Americans said they had been regularly wearing masks. The partisan gap between Democrats and Republicans on mask wearing is now 16 percentage points, down from 23 points this spring.
In the latest survey, 92% of Democrats and Democratic leaners say they usually wear masks in stores and other businesses, compared to 76% of Republicans and GOP leaners. In June, 76% of Democrats said they had usually worn masks in stores and other businesses over the previous month, compared with a little over half of Republicans and GOP leaners (53%).
“As rapidly growing case counts strained health care systems across the South and Southwest this summer, more Republican leaders ordered citizens to wear masks to help slow the spread of the virus,” the report said. “In July, President Donald Trump wore a mask in public for the first time and urged Americans to do the same, marking a change in tone from earlier in the pandemic.”
As of Monday, COVID-19 had infected over 40 million people worldwide, a number that mostly does not account for asymptomatic cases, and killed more than 1.1 million people. The U.S. still has the world’s highest number of cases and deaths (8.1 million and 219,674 deaths), followed by India (7.5 million), Brazil (5.2 million) and Russia (1.4 million), according to Johns Hopkins University.
AstraZeneca AZN, +0.91%, in combination with Oxford University; BioNTech SE BNTX, +4.10% and partner Pfizer PFE, +3.83% ; Johnson & Johnson JNJ, +0.61% ; Merck & Co. MERK, +0.64% ; Moderna MRNA, -2.17% ; Sanofi SAN, +2.12% and GlaxoSmithKline GSK, +1.64% are among those currently working toward COVID-19 vaccines.
Fauci is not the only public-health professional who is concerned about a “twindemic” of influenza and coronavirus during the winter months. “The next six-to-12 weeks are going to be the darkest of the entire pandemic,” Dr. Michael Osterholm, director of the University of Minnesota’s Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy, told NBC’s “Meet the Press” on Sunday.