WASHINGTON (BLOOMBERG) – Anthony Fauci, the top infectious disease expert in the United States, warned young people who gamble they can go out to bars and socialise thinking that even if they get sick, it won’t be a severe case of Covid-19, they are “inadvertently propagating the pandemic”.
When asked at a virtual event hosted by Georgetown University who people should trust on the novel coronavirus, Dr Fauci said “respected medical authorities” and added that he thinks he – the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease – is one of them.
The most important thing is to “stick to the science and stick to the evidence,” he said, and not “get involved in any of the political nonsense” about masks and other issues that have become topics of debate.
Many aspects of the virus itself, including who to listen to, how individuals should behave and how aggressively communities should reopen, have become political footballs, with President Donald Trump and members of his administration often at odds over the dangers posed by Covid-19 versus the risks to keeping the economy shuttered.
Most recently, the issue of when and how to return students to schools has become a flashpoint, with Mr Trump criticising the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention’s guidance as too difficult.
“As a general principle we should try as best as possible to keep children in school,” Dr Fauci said, noting remote learning’s risks for children’s development as well as the impact on their families.
However the “safety and welfare of the children, and the safety and welfare of teachers” and school staff need to be taken into account in assessing whether a school district can resume in-person classes.
While he expects deaths will increase given the recent spikes in cases and hospitalisations, Dr Fauci said he doubts the death rate will return to the levels seen in April, largely because so many of the sick now are younger and less vulnerable.
In response to a student’s question about the impact of lockdowns on people’s mental health, he acknowledged the stress that the pandemic has caused.
“The strain on the morale and the mental health of people being put in a really abnormal situation like a lockdown is something you need to consider and balance,” he said.
Still, “confinements and physical distancing have played an important successful role in getting cases down.”