Fauci: I would have been 'laughed out of the country' for suggesting masks in Jan. 2020

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By , KNX 1070 Newsradio

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the face of America’s COVID-19 pandemic response, spoke with KNX about the possibility of booster vaccines, school reopenings and how he would have approached the federal government’s response differently knowing what he knows now.

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Fauci, an immunologist serving as the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and the chief medical advisor to the President Joe Biden, has become a television news fixture. He has also weathered extreme criticism from those who oppose continued COVID-19-related restrictions. In an interview with KNX, Fauci admitted if he had recommended mask-wearing and lockdowns in Jan. 2020, he  “would have almost been laughed out of the country.”

At the time, the government was not aware that the majority of people who could transmit COVID-19 might have no symptoms at all. Additionally, Fauci said a major challenge in convincing Americans to adopt pandemic safety protocol is the country’s stark political divide.

The U.S. is “in the middle of a historic and global health crisis, the likes of which this planet has not seen in over 100 years,” and, yet, there are so many political decisions hampering what should be a unified “response to a common enemy,” said Fauci.

Fauci also clarified his position on booster shots for those who have already received both doses of their COVID-19 vaccines. Fauci did say the immunocompromised would need a booster shot, but that is far fewer people than most imagine.

“You’re really talking about, relatively speaking, in the adult population, less than three percent of the population,” he said.

Immunocompromised people who would need a third shot include people who have received an organ transplant and are on immunosuppressant drugs, people undergoing chemotherapy for cancer, HIV-positive people and those with autoimmune diseases, like lupus and rheumatoid arthritis.

According to Fauci, immunocompromised people did not gain the required level of immunity from their first vaccination shots. However, the assumption that everyone will eventually need to boost their immunity levels is not necessarily true.

“It’s an assumption, but not an unreasonable assumption, that in the future we will have to get an additional shot to maintain the durability of the immune response,” said Fauci.

“Even people who have gotten good immune responses to begin with, you’re going to assume it’s not going to last at the highly protective level indefinitely.”

While Fauci knows the expectation is that everyone will need a booster, he clarified, “we are not there yet.”

Anxiety about the need for boosters is, in large part, a response to the highly contagious Delta variant. The variant has spread throughout Los Angeles County and the country resulting in a resurgence of the virus. Hospitalizations have also increased. The Delta variant made up 99 percent of new COVID-19 cases sequenced by L.A. County Department of Public Health last week.

Fauci acknowledged the challenges the Delta variant presents to public health officials hoping to contain the virus.

“The Delta variant is quite different than the Alpha variant; it has  a much much greater capability of transmitting from person to person,” he said.

Despite the Delta variant's grip on the country, Fauci reaffirmed the importance of getting kids back into classrooms for the upcoming school year.

Fauci said children’s safety has to be balanced against the “deleterious effects” being out of school has on their mental and physical health. Instead of keeping kids home, Fauci recommended that school staff and eligible students get vaccinated.

Administrators should “surround children with vaccinated people who are eligible to be vaccinated,” said Fauci.

California's State Superintendent Tony Thurmond agreed. He has said he wants all eligible students to get vaccinated against COVID-19.

“We have been leaning in as hard as we can to a message of getting young people, getting all people, who are eligible to get a vaccine, vaccinated as one of the many COVID mitigation strategies we think are important,” said Thurmond.

Thurmond added that getting as many people as possible vaccinated will keep schools open.

Currently, everyone aged 12 and older is eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine.

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