Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, has warned the US to expect the coronavirus situation to once again deteriorate as the country enters the fall and winter months. The warning comes with almost 30 US states reporting downward trends in Covid-19 cases, but it is a sentiment that has been echoed within the scientific community for months now.
“We need to hunker down and get through this fall and winter because it’s not going to be easy,” Dr. Anthony Fauci said last week.
“I keep looking at that curve and I get more depressed and more depressed about the fact that we never really get down to the baseline that I’d like,” the 79-year-old added.
Many, including those in the Trump administration, appear to be relaxing over the pandemic situation but that the US continues to see about 36,000 new cases each day, which is better than where we were in August, but still too high, according to Fauci.
“If you look at the numbers, they are very serious and very concerning. We’ve had now over 185,000 deaths, six plus million infections. If you look at the country, a large heterogeneous country, there are some areas that are doing really very well right now, particularly those that got hit badly early on,” Fauci said.
“For example, the New York City metropolitan area has, for at least a month now, been less than 1% test positivity. In contrast, in other parts of the country, particularly what we saw in some of the Southern states that had big surges when they tried to open up the economy, that brought our baseline number of daily infections up from 20,000 a day up to as high as 70,000.
“We’re back down now to between 30 and 40,000, and just as those states are starting to level off and come down, which is a really good sign, we’re starting to see the beginning of surges in place like Montana, the Dakotas, Michigan, Minnesota, Iowa,” Fauci continued.
There are a number of factors that could contribute to a surge in Covid-19 cases over the fall and winter months, including the mass return of college students to their hometowns. Across the nation, colleges have become ‘coronavirus hotspots’ and health officials have warned against allowing college students to return home en masse, arguing it would likely transmit the disease to many more communities.
“When you bring in college and university students in, if they get infected, you really should try as best as you can have to have a capability, a facility, to sequester them from the rest of the student body so they don’t infect other students,” Dr. Fauci went on to say.
“But you shouldn’t send them home because if you send them home, I mean, just the nature of universities and colleges, you’re getting kids from all over the country. If you send them back to their community, you will, in essence, be reseeding with individuals who are capable of transmitting infection, many communities throughout the country.
“So it’s much, much better to have the capability to put them in a place where they could comfortably recover. Hopefully that could be a floor of a dorm or some colleges are doing an entire dorm that’s dedicated to people who you want to segregate from the rest of the student body,” he said.
As the weather becomes colder in most corners of the country, a large portion of Americans will begin to spend more and more of their time indoors where the virus is transmitted more easily.
This will come on top of the inevitable flu season, making it harder for doctors to determine whether patients have Covid-19 or not and placing more pressure on healthcare systems across the country.
Attention has now turned on the race for a Covid-19 vaccine and the eventual release of one will be the country’s biggest help in dealing with an uptick in cases.
“Right now there are six or seven vaccine candidates that the US government is helping to facilitate either by developing with them, or by pre-purchasing of doses, or allowing our clinical trial network to be available to them,” Fauci added during the press conference.
“Three of those candidates are already in phase three trial which means you’re going to enroll tens of thousands of people, volunteers, to determine if it’s safe and effective. The phase three trials that got started, the first two got started on July 27th.
“It’s a prime and a boost dose. You prime and then 28 days later you give a boost. Right now, the trials are about two thirds enrolled. We project that by the end of September, they will be fully enrolled,” he continued.
“Then you add another month, a month and a half to get that second dose. So that’s the reason why I have been projecting…. that by the end of the year, by November or December, we will know whether we have a safe and effective vaccine.”