Dr. Anthony Fauci — director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases — spoke with Trevor Noah about the various misconceptions surrounding the coronavirus and the path forward on The Daily Home Distancing Show Thursday.
The interview started with Fauci describing how COVID-19 is different from every other medical emergency he’s worked on, and how it’s exactly the kind of infectious disease he was always most concerned about: “It’s a respiratory-born illness that easily spreads from person-to-person but that has a high degree of morbidity and mortality,” he said. “And unfortunately that’s the worst nightmare you could have, to have something like that.”
Fauci called the virus “insidious” because of how easily it can spread and reiterated the importance of social distancing and frequently washing your hands and high-touch surfaces. He did add, however, that handling packages is fine, as the virus likely doesn’t live on those surfaces for very long, and said people shouldn’t be worried about picking up items at the grocery store that were made in China.
Elsewhere, Fauci addressed two potentially dangerous issues that President Donald Trump has been pushing in recent days (although the president was never actually mentioned by name). The first involved possible coronavirus treatments, such as the malaria drug chloroquine, which Trump has touted much to the chagrin of many scientists; the second involved a plan to reassess the pandemic in 15 days and potentially start sending people back to work (Trump has said he wants to reopen the economy by Easter, April 12th).
Fauci asserted that, at the moment, there’s “no proven safe and effective, direct therapy for coronavirus disease,” and that there’s only anecdotal evidence that drugs like chloroquine work (he did note that there’s plenty of ongoing trials at the moment to find an effective treatment and cure).
On the timeline question, Fauci said the only clock we can follow is the disease itself. “People say, arbitrarily, in two weeks we’re going to be OK, but it depends upon the kinetics of the outbreak,” Fauci said, adding, “In general, if you look historically at the countries that have been through the whole cycle, in China it was about eight weeks or so before it went way up and then way down.”
At the end of the interview, Fauci spoke about how various facets of the American government and bureaucracy can best come together and beat the pandemic, saying: “Things are implemented at the state and local level, that’s the way this country works so well. The federal government is a facilitator, it’s a supplier, it’s a supporter and that’s the way things should be going, and that’s what we’re starting to see now as we’re catching up on things that weren’t done so well at the beginning… It really is a marriage between the federal government as the facilitator and supporter of where the real action is, at the state and local level.”