Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, delivered a healthy dose of optimism this week when he said that schools should reopen in the fall, and that the COVID-19 death tolls are lower than the original estimation.
“You know, it is unpredictable, but you can get a feel for it if we start talking about the things where the curve goes down,” Fauci said during the Tuesday task force briefing. “How we respond and what kind of a rebound we see or don’t see, I think is going to have a lot of influence probably more immediately on things like summer camps than it does in the fall.”
“I fully expect – though, I’m humble enough to know that I can’t accurately predict – that by the time we get to the fall that we will have this under control, enough that it certainly will not be the way it is now where people are shutting schools,” he continued.
Though Fauci warned the virus will be far from over, he did express optimism that herd immunity and mitigation efforts will be strong enough so that people could return to public settings with some slightly different modifications.
“My optimistic side tells me that we’ll be able to renew to a certain extent, but it’s going to be different. Remember now because this is not going to disappear,” Fauci said. “So we’re going to have to have in place the capability of doing the things that we talk about all the time on this stage, to identify, to isolate, to contact trace – number one. Number two, by that time, we’ll have a better feel with the antibody test about what the actual penetrance of this infection was in society.”
Though a second wave will likely hit in the fall, Fauci said that the virus may not be the death sentence for some due to improved therapy treatments currently undergoing clinical testing.
“If you come back in the fall, it will be a totally different ball game,” he said. “We have a number of clinical trials that are looking at a variety of therapeutic interventions … As I mentioned to you many times at these briefings is that we have a vaccine that’s on track and multiple other candidates … If we start seeing an efficacy signal, we may be able to even use a vaccine at the next season.”
Driving it home, Fauci noted that his daughter has been affected by the closures as a school teacher. Vice President Mike Pence, whose wife is also a school teacher, then took to the podium to thank educators for their sacrifice.
“To all the teachers who are out there, we just want to say thank you … for continuing learning in this challenging time,” Pence said. “To all the kids, just because you’re home doesn’t mean you don’t have to do your schoolwork.”
Speaking to Fox News on Wednesday, Fauci poured out some more good news when he said that the original death toll prediction of 100,000 to 200,000 was overestimated.
“Although one of the original models projected 100- to 200,000 deaths, as we’re getting more data and seeing the positive effect of mitigation, those numbers are going to be downgraded,” Fauci said. “I don’t know exactly what the numbers are going to be, but right now it looks like it’s going to be less than the original projection.”
The deaths are now projected to be at approximately 60,000. Despite that, Fauci said that this is not that the time to ease social distancing, arguing it had a positive effect.
“We’re going to start to see the beginning of a turnaround, so we need to keep pushing on the mitigation strategies because there’s no doubt that that’s having a positive impact,” he said. “Now’s not the time to pull back at all. It’s a time to intensify.”