He’s guided Americans on the novel coronavirus since it showed up on Western shores last year. He’s also participated in the White House Task Force to educate the public about the virus, its dangers and what to do (wear a mask and social distance).
Dr. Anthony Fauci, Director of NIAID, and LA Mayor Eric Garcetti joined a special KNX In-Depth Monday to talk about the pandemic, what went wrong and what else can be done as we come upon a year of living in this pandemic.
More than 22,000 people have died in LA County from the virus and more than 522,000 have died across the United States from COVID-19. The CDC numbers report that 90.4 million people have been vaccinated.
As more states lift COVID-19 restrictions or lift mask mandates like Texas, Fauci has been warning of another surge.
Meanwhile, Garcetti has said Los Angeles has administered half a million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine across all of the city-run sites. A new site at USC is opening Tuesday, with the hope of eventually administering up doses to 5,000 people each day.
The CDC released its guidance for fully vaccinated people Monday saying they can gather indoors with other fully vaccinated people in smaller groups without masks.
Fauci said quite soon the public will see formal recommendations about traveling.
He adds that if you are traveling in close quarters, you should still be wearing a mask.
Fauci tells KNX that although cases have been declining, in many places they're now hitting a plateau.
He addressed the light at the end of the tunnel saying, “the tunnel gets shorter and shorter as more people get vaccinated.”
He says when we get to the end of May there will be enough vaccines in the country to vaccinate those who can be vaccinated - something President Biden has also declared recently. He also stressed the equity in getting the vaccine to Black and brown communities.
“The sooner and the more effectively we get people vaccinated in an equitable manner, that tunnel is going to get shorter and shorter and that light is going to get brighter and brighter,” Fauci says.
Garcetti said there are more than 500 places to get vaccinated including pharmacies, federal sites, city run sites, clinics, healthcare providers, and mobile sites. He stressed convincing people to go get vaccinated when it’s their turn.
“This is going to save your family’s life,” he says.
What about those who don’t want to or are afraid to get vaccinated?
Fauci said “There are people who don’t want to get vaccinated because they are completely against vaccines in general but that is a relatively small fraction of people.
“Other people have hesitancy because of logical questions that they are asking that we are trying to answer. Like did you guys go too fast?’ The virus was recognized in January and then in December you are already putting the vaccine in peoples’ arms,” Fauci said. Adding that the science went on for decades before the vaccine was developed. He says the platform technology, the mRNA and other approaches have been happening well before the pandemic.
“You have to try to outreach to people to make sure the questions they have about it are being answered in an adequate way."
Fauci says that when it comes to wearing a mask in the U.S., there's a “divisiveness.”
“That was really quite destructive because the one thing you don’t want when you are fighting the common enemy of a deadly virus is political divisiveness in your own country where political overtones get into the public health message."
Fauci says he has been impressed with the way that the city and county of Los Angeles have rolled out their COVID-19 vaccination programs, particularly when it comes to outreach in Black and brown communities.
“I've got to tell President Biden about this when I see him tomorrow and tell him about all these types of things that are going on,” he said.
Garcetti, meanwhile, said early on last year he wanted to put aside the political and partisan battles and do asymptomatic testing.
Fauci recalled the evolving situation when it came to wearing masks.
"When we were first being confronted with this early on in the beginning of 2020 there was a reality that the personal protective equipment was in short supply including masks. And it was felt that if we said that ‘everybody go wear a mask’ particularly since there was no real data that masks worked at the time, that everybody would buy up the masks and the people who are risking their lives every day, to take care of patients, would not have enough masks. So the Surgeon General and I said ‘you know, you don’t really need to go out and buy masks we need to save them for the people who need them.’”
He adds, “the second thing is we didn't even know if masks worked.... and the third thing is we didn’t know the virus was spread equally by people who did not have symptoms.”
Then what happened is science evolved and it became clear that there was not a shortage of masks, according to Fauci.
“Data began to accumulate that, we didn’t have before, masks actually work to prevent you from infecting others and to protect you from getting infected and and we learned that 40 to 60 percent of the infections are transmitted by people who are not symptomatic therefore everyone should wear a mask,” Fauci said adding “what changed was the information that informed our decisions.”
When it comes to reopening schools in Los Angeles Garcetti said “I believe it is with the protections and prioritization.”
Fauci, meanwhile, said “the default position should always be do whatever you possibly can to get the children back to school. It is very important to get them back but we want to make sure we do it to the best as we possibly can with attention to the safety of the children, the teachers and the educational personnel.
“If we can get more teachers vaccinated and give them a high priority, get more people in the community vaccinated, get the resources to the schools to be able to open safely, I believe in the next several weeks to months you will see a lot more schools opening quite safely."
What show or concert is Fauci looking forward to?
“I want to see a good movie in a movie theater and I want to see 'Hamilton' again in the theater, but I also want to go to a ball game,” Fauci says, adding that’s where he would want a frankfurt and beer.
“I got to hug my parents for the first time in months and months and months but second, I got to say, get to Dodger Stadium..to be able to see the World Champion Los Angeles Dodgers get back on that field,” Garcetti says.