Wearing masks. Keeping your distance. Avoiding crowds, especially indoors. Washing your hands.
As the COVID-19 pandemic persists, spiking across the country as the holiday season approaches, Dr. Anthony Fauci on Sunday urged Americans to use common sense. The nation’s top infectious disease expert, Fauci dismissed accusations that public health officials had called for a total lockdown.
“We’re in a very, very difficult situation at all levels,” Fauci said on CBS’ “Face the Nation.” “So I think, I would hope, that the people who are pushing back on the recommendations for mitigation measures just look at the numbers, look at the facts. They’re staring us right in the face.”
More than 12 million Americans have contracted the novel coronavirus and more than a quarter of a million have died, according to Johns Hopkins University. Several states are implementing new curfews and tighter social distancing recommendations just as weather that forces people indoors is colliding with a season of interstate and international travel and large indoor gatherings — both of which public health officials hope to curtail to curb the spread of COVID-19.
In Massachusetts, officials reported nearly 3,000 new cases on Saturday. The weekly rate of positive COVID-19 tests in the state has shot up to 3.21% compared to a low of 0.8% in September.
On Saturday alone, the U.S. saw 1,428 COVID-19-linked deaths and nearly 172,000 new cases. During the last week, the U.S. reported an average of 170,000-plus cases per day, nearly a 60% bump over averages earlier this month, The New York Times reported Sunday. Most states are now reporting rising numbers of newly confirmed positive coronavirus tests.
Fauci noted that while the disease has most severely impacted older people, there is still “a substantial proportion of people who are hospitalized between 40 and 59.”
“You know, we’re not talking about shutting down the country and locking down completely,” Fauci added. “But we do know … that mitigation measures work if you compare countries that do it and even within our own United States, if you look at some of the states that have actually implemented mitigation. And with the really simple, I’m not talking about locking everything down, I’m talking about universal wearing of masks, physical distancing, avoiding crowds, particularly indoor, keeping the masks on indoor, doing things outdoors more than indoors, if you possibly can, given the weather considerations, and washing your hands.”
Limiting capacity at bars and restaurants also has a positive impact, Fauci said.
With “Face the Nation” host Margaret Brennan reporting that nearly 50 million people are expected to travel by air this year, Fauci noted that travel and large crowds are an aspect of the winter season that may “get us into even more trouble than we’re in right now.”
Fauci noted, however, that the nation was far from “helpless.”
“Vaccines are coming and they’re going to be available relatively soon,” he said. “If we can hang in there with the mitigation methods and implementing them, we can get out of this. So there’s a very sober message on the one hand, but there’s a hopeful message if we can do certain things. It’s within our power to do them.”
Pfizer and BioNTech this past week announced that their coronavirus vaccine showed it is 95% effective at preventing the spread of the viral respiratory infection, adding more optimism about the potential for a preventative for the virus to be developed by year’s end.
Moderna Inc., a biotechnology company based in Cambridge, also recently announced that its COVID-19 vaccine candidate was nearly 95% effective during phase three of human trials.
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