The U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation held a webinar conversation with Dr. Anthony Fauci today to talk about U.S. situation in the COVID-19 pandemic and the role of America’s business community in the fight against spread of the disease.
“We’re in a very difficult situation, with a large outbreak that has produced nearly 140,000 fatalities and 3.5 million infections,” said Fauci, an American physician and immunologist who has served as the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) since 1984. Since January 2020, he has been one of the lead members of the Trump Administration's White House Coronavirus Task Force addressing the COVID-19 pandemic in the United States.
Variability in the rate of spread of the virus is a significant challenge to developing cogent policy to combat the spread of the virus.
“A major urban area like New York City, which has had a very difficult time since the outbreak, has turned it around and their numbers of infections and deaths continue to decline.” But Fauci points out the group of states across the south from California to Arizona to Texas and Florida and elsewhere seeing a resurgence in infections. Totals of new infections over the last seven days in ten states range from 12,000 to more than 80,000, and nine more states have aggregated infection totals between 5,000 and 9,000 new cases this week.
Fauci says the obvious objective is to, “As safely as we can, reopen the economy and step toward normality. We do that by opening up carefully following certain guidelines, like the ones the White House Coronavirus Task Force have very carefully developed and issued.”
The task force defined conditions that should have been satisfied before states and local governments began to lift stay-home orders. These included:
- Downward trajectory of symptoms of influenza-like illnesses reported within a 14-day period and downward trajectory of covid-like syndromic cases reported within 14 days
- Downward trajectory of documented covid cases within a 14-day period or downward trajectory of positive tests as a percent of total tests within 14 days (with a flat or increasing volume of tests)
- Hospitals treating all patients without crisis care and robust testing program in place for at-risk healthcare workers, including emerging antibody testing
Fauci says the surge in covid-19 cases over the past 45 days resulted from mistakes in following the task force guidance at a couple of levels.
“There were certain states that skipped over one or more gateway conditions and relaxed their stay-at-home orders. Other cities did it perfectly, but the citizenry did not follow the Task Force’s social distancing guidelines, and we saw large groups crowded into bars and parties not wearing masks.”
Task force guidance also describes threshold measurements for conditions that should be satisfied for a state’s businesses to progress from Phase 1 to Phase 2 operations.
All along, Fauci recommends employers find out at which phase their state is operating, and follow the guidelines for that phase. And advise their staffs to practice anti-infection hygiene:
- Everybody should be wearing a mask
- Whenever possible, keep a distance of 6 ft. from other people
- Wash your hands with soap and water or use hand sanitizer regularly, especially after touching frequently used items or surfaces
- Avoid touching your face
- Sneeze or cough into a tissue, or the inside of your elbow
- Disinfect frequently used items and surfaces as much as possible
- People who feel sick should stay home: do not go to work or school, contact and follow the advice of your medical provider
Fauci says Americans should consider their personal responsibility to protect themselves.
“Even a young person, by getting infected, you are part of the propagation of the pandemic. You are slowing down the process of reopening our economy. It does not just involve you. If you get infected, chances are you’re going to infect somebody else. Sooner or later you’re going to infect somebody who is at higher risk of a serious outcome. We need a sense of personal and societal responsibility.
“We have had a spirit of independence from the birth or our country. This is different. It’s everybody pulling together for the good of all of us to overcome a very serious threat.”