Transcript: Anthony Fauci on "Face the Nation," March 7, 2021
The following is a transcript of an interview with Dr. Anthony Fauci, chief medical adviser to President Biden, that aired Sunday, March 7, 2021, on "Face the Nation."
MARGARET BRENNAN: We go now to the president's Chief Medical Adviser, Dr. Anthony Fauci. Good morning to you, doctor.
CHIEF MEDICAL ADVISOR TO PRESIDENT BIDEN DR. ANTHONY FAUCI: Good morning.
MARGARET BRENNAN: You recently warned that the country could be at risk for another infection spike. Are you worried about a fourth wave of this epidemic?
DR. FAUCI: Well, my concern, MARGARET, is based on the fact that although the cases are coming down very nicely, you have a very sharp diminution, over the past week and a half or so, we've seen that that decline has now done this, essentially starting to plateau. And historically, if you look back at the different surges we've had, when they come down and then start to plateau at a very high level, plateauing at a level of 60 to 70,000 new cases per day is not an acceptable level. That is really very high. And if you look at what happened in Europe a few weeks ago, they're usually a couple of weeks ahead of us in these patterns, they were coming down too, then they plateaued. And over the last week or so, they've had about a 9% increase in cases. So the message we're saying is that we do want to come back carefully and slowly about pulling back on mitigation methods. But don't turn that switch on and off because it really would be risky to have yet again another surge, which we do not want to happen because we're plateauing at a- quite a high level. Sixty to 70,000 new infections per day is quite high.
MARGARET BRENNAN: I know you've been watching carefully this new New York strain that has shown some resistance to antibody treatments and vaccine. How widespread is it?
DR. FAUCI: Well, it's not widespread yet, but it seems to be spreading pretty efficiently through the New York City metropolitan area and beyond. One of the things you have to be careful about is that when you get a variant that has the capability of being rather vigorous in its- in its capability of spreading, and the fact is that it eludes a bit, not as much as the South African isolate, but it eludes a bit some of the protection from the antibodies, from monoclonal antibodies as well as the vaccine. The one thing you want to do is to make sure you do not allow that to continue to spread. Two ways to do that, get people vaccinated as quickly and as expeditiously as possible, and above all, maintain the public health measures that we talk about so often, the masking, the physical distancing and the avoiding of congregate settings, particularly indoors. That's what you can do to prevent the spread of a worrisome variant.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Doctor, but you know people are exhausted. And so much of this game seems to be about human psychology. States are moving faster than the federal guidelines are allowing for here. When will the Biden administration put out some clear benchmarks for people at home to make the judgment about how they can return to normal?
DR. FAUCI: Yeah, well, when you're talking about benchmarks of people who are vaccinated and how a vaccinated person can interact with an unvaccinated person or with unvaccinated people, those guidelines are coming out from the CDC really imminently, MARGARET. I would imagine, within the next couple of days for sure. One of the things that I think we should point out, every day that goes by that we keep the lid on things will get better and better because we're putting now at least two million vaccinations into the arms of individuals each day. And as the days and weeks go by, you have more and more protection, not only of individuals, but of the community. So we're going in the right direction. We just need to hang in there a bit longer.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Right.
DR. FAUCI: We will be pulling back on these mitigation methods. It's not going to be this way indefinitely for sure. We want to get those- the levels of virus very, very low, and then we will have much, much easier time to safely pull back and get the economy and all the other things that we want to be normal.
MARGARET BRENNAN: How- but what will drive that? Will it be seasonality? I mean, we're going into warmer weather. Is it going to feel safer, and then in the autumn, we have to pull back again?
DR. FAUCI: No, I don't think so, MARGARET, because we've been through this movie before where we felt we were going to get some relief in the summer. And if you go back and look at the patterns, we've had surges in the middle of the summer. Generally, respiratory viruses do better in the sense of better for the community in the summer, but we can't rely on that now. What we need to rely on is getting people vaccinating and continuing the public health measures with the gradual pulling back. We- we want to make sure people understand this is not going to be indefinite. We need to gradually pull back as we get more people vaccinated. And that is happening every single day, more and more people, and particularly as we get more doses, which are going to be dramatically increased as we get into April and May. And as the president has said, we will have at- by the end of May, enough vaccines to vaccinate everyone. We'll have to put a big push to get it into people's arms, but by that time, we're going to be doing much, much better. We're going to have--
MARGARET BRENNAN: What about--
DR. FAUCI: --community vaccine centers, vaccine in pharmacies. OK, sorry.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Sorry. Now, what about high school students? Should they be vaccinated before the fall?
DR. FAUCI: Well, actually, that's a very good question. And right now, the tests are being done to determine both safety and comparable immunogenicity in high school students. We project that high school students will very likely be able to be vaccinated by the fall term, maybe not the very first day, but certainly in the early part of the fall for that fall educational term. Elementary school kids, we're doing this what's called age de-escalation studies to make sure it's safe and immunogenic in them. They likely will be able to get vaccinated by the very first quarter of 2022.
MARGARET BRENNAN: All right. Thank you very much, Dr. Fauci.
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