Full text of Dr. Anthony Fauci and Mark Zuckerberg interview about coronavirus and vaccines on July 16, 2020 on Facebook Live.
Dr. Anthony Fauci is a physician and immunologist who has served as the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases since 1984. In this video, Facebook’s CEO Mark Zuckerberg interviews Dr. Fauci on coronavirus and the vaccines.
MARK ZUCKERBERG: Thanks for tuning in today. And I hope you’re all staying healthy and good.
I’m here today with Dr. Anthony Fauci, our nation’s leading infectious disease expert, to discuss the recent surge in COVID across the country and how we can all stay safe and improve the country’s trajectory going forward.
Dr. Fauci last joined me a couple of months ago, I think, when COVID was first beginning to spread in the U.S. And since then, we’ve had a lockdown and we started reopening. And I think many would say maybe we started reopening a bit too quickly before we really got it under control because, while every other developed country in the world, or almost every other country, has had a relatively smaller number of new infections, we now face a record number of new infections every day. More than 50,000, I think, daily is the recent number.
At this point, it is clear that the trajectory in the U.S. is significantly worse than many other countries and that our government and this administration have been considerably less effective in handling this. And I personally think we need to take this a lot more seriously. And our understanding of the disease, of course, is evolving and our response needs to be guided by science and our latest scientific understanding, even if it’s not perfect at any given moment.
So, I want to say upfront that I’m grateful for the leadership and dedication of Dr. Fauci who has been working tirelessly under very difficult conditions to help us all navigate this.
So, doctor, thank you for joining us. And I’d love to get started by getting your perspective on where things are now, why the U.S. response has been less effective than many other developed countries, and what do we do to improve from here?
DR. ANTHONY FAUCI: Well, as you described accurately, Mark, we do have a serious situation now. I mean, it’s a mixed bag. There are parts of the country that are doing well. The Northeastern part, particularly the New York metropolitan area, was hit very hard. There was a period of time when more than 50% of all the new infections, and hospitalizations, and deaths were right in New York city.
And there was a time when they were essentially leading, with regard from a bad standpoint, namely illness and death. They’ve done very, very well right now. They’ve come back down. They’re opening in a very measured way.
However, as you alluded to, simultaneous with that in another region of the country, Southern states particularly, exemplified by Florida, California, Arizona, Texas have seen surges that are really quite disturbing, surges, as you mentioned, that have gone up to over 60,000 cases a day. That obviously is something that we must address and address in a very, very cogent way.
And, if you look at the reasons for that, you asked the why. Why, it’s a complicated answer to that. But one of the things that became clear is that, when you look, and I’m not going to name any specific states, but there were some States that actually, when you look at what the guidelines were for opening, the checkpoints that you have to get past before you went to the next phase, some of them went too quickly and officially jumped over them.
That, as I had said in previous discussions, is a recipe for getting into trouble.
In other situations where the states actually officially, the governors, the mayors put out and delineated exactly what should be done, but the citizenry of the state or the city had the impression that you went either from lockdown to put caution to the wind. And what we saw were clips of people at bars, congregating without masks, not staying distance, in crowds. And that’s what I believe is at least part of the explanation for why we’ve seen the surges went up. That’s the first thing.
The other thing that’s important in the comparison to other countries, which is, in some respects, unfair, but in some respects is fair, that, when you looked at what happened in the European countries, when they had their peak and they locked down, they locked down to the tune of about 90% to 95% of the country truly locked down. So, they went up and then they came down to baseline. And, when I say baseline, I mean, literally handfuls of new cases, tens, twenties, thirties, not hundreds and thousands.
When, if you look at the United States as a whole, when we went up and peaked and started to come down, we never really went down to baseline. We plateaued at around 20,000 cases a day. We really got to almost regroup, call a timeout, not necessarily lockdown again, but say, we’ve got to do this in a more measured way. We’ve got to get our arms around this. And we’ve got to get this controlled.
If we don’t do that, Mark, we’re going to wind up getting a situation where in other states we may be seeing the same thing. So, it’s a mixed bag in this country, some areas doing well, but some really we’ve got to really pay attention to and do something about it.
MARK ZUCKERBERG: All right. Well, doctor, I strongly agree that we need somewhat of a reset here. As someone running a business, I’ve said that I believe the best way to improve both public health and economic opportunity in this country is to focus on beating this virus first.
And I also have to say, I think you might be quite generous in your description of the government’s response here. I was certainly sympathetic early on when it was clear that there would be some outbreaks, no matter how well we handled this.
But now that we’re here in July, I just think that it was avoidable. And it’s really disappointing that we still don’t have adequate testing, that the credibility of our top scientists, like yourself and the CDC, are being undermined. Then, until recently, that parts of the administration were calling into question whether people should even follow basic best practices like wearing masks.
But, look, the U.S. is a resilient country with a lot of ingenuity, as you say. And we can’t forget that the U.S. is helping to lead the way on vaccine research, which I want to make sure we get to in a bit. And I also get that our understanding of facts changes as time goes on. And we all have the opportunity to reassess what we’ve learned and to change course going forward. And I know I tried to do that personally. And I hope that we, as a country, can do that now too.
And I know that you’ve also faced some critique that your guidance has evolved as we’ve learned more.
So, I’m hoping that you can tell us a bit more about how your understanding of what we should do has evolved, and maybe some of the areas where your guidance for people around the country has changed.
DR. ANTHONY FAUCI: Yeah. I mean, obviously, when you’re dealing with something that’s changing in real time, Mark, that’s really the nature of science. You look at the data and the information you have at any given time and you make a decision, with regards to policy, based on that information.
As the information changes, then you have to be flexible enough and humble enough to be able to change how you think about things. And I think one of the important things that we’re emphasizing right now that really evolved from a situation that did change is our insistence now on wearing masks.