Anthony Fauci says he is ‘cautiously optimistic’ of return to normalcy during CSU livestream

Most Americans will likely receive the coronavirus vaccine by August, Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said during a livestream hosted by the California State University Friday.

“By the time we get to April, May, June, July, August, we can get the overwhelming majority of the people in this country vaccinated, so that by the time we get to the 2021-2022 term, I think we could be in good shape,” Fauci said. “I am cautiously optimistic that we can do that and get back to some form of normality.”

Moderated by Chancellor Timothy P. White, “A Conversation with Dr. Anthony Fauci” featured the presidents of all 23 CSU campuses and focused on how to approach returning to in-person instruction. 

The 23 CSU presidents, along with other officials, participate in “A Conversation with Dr. Anthony Fauci” Friday, Dec. 18.

Fauci said that he projects the majority of students will likely be able to be vaccinated by late spring or summer, with high-risk individuals and essential persons receiving the vaccine sometime in March or April. 

“Between now and March, we can get the people who have the high priorities, those who have essential positions, those who are elderly and have underlying conditions,” Fauci said. “When you get to March and April, then I would call that more like ‘open season.’ Anyone, even those who have no underlying conditions [or those who] don’t have any particular reason to get vaccinated, to start getting them vaccinated.”

He maintained that prior to returning to face-to-face operation, all students, including on-campus residents, should continue to exercise health and safety guidelines and to get tested to further limit the spread of the coronavirus. Fauci said “the idea of vaccinating teachers is very high up in the priority.”

Long Beach State, along with the rest of the CSU system, has held the majority of its courses virtually since March, with only a limited number of students, faculty and staff permitted on campus to conduct essential activity. Anyone visiting campus is required to wear a mask, which Fauci deemed “most important,” and practice social distancing. 

“Try and get the level of infection in the community down by doing some of the public health measures that we talked about, and those are the things that you’ve heard me likely say over and over again: uniform wearing of mask, keeping physical distance, avoiding congregate settings where you have crowds, where you’re going to be indoors and people, in fact, are going to be close to each other,” Fauci said. “So, probably wearing a mask is the most important thing to do.” 

He said that the way to avoid having individuals, including those with or without underlying health conditions, go from experiencing “moderate symptoms to requiring intensive care” is by “attacking the virus, early on.” The way to do this, he said, is by issuing emergency use authorization of vaccines and by further developing therapies used for advanced diseases. 

As of Dec. 17, Southern California’s intensive care unit capacity has dropped to 0%, which has resulted from a surge in coronavirus cases following the Thanksgiving holiday. Fauci said that California is “being hit as hard as any state” and has had to resort to “rather dramatic shutdown procedures” issued by Gov. Gavin Newsom.

According to Fauci, emergency COVID-19 relief funding from Congress will allow the NIAID to move forward with this approach of developing targeted antiviral drugs. 

“The thing that we really do need to do is make a major investment in the targeted development of antivirals very similar to what we did with HIV,” Fauci said. “The only trouble is, with HIV and with hepatitis B, C, we developed spectacularly effective drugs, but it took a few years to do it. So right now we need to make a commitment that we’re going to need those drugs, so we should start developing them right now with targeted antiviral therapy. Bottom line is, things look really good with vaccines, but not nearly as good with therapy.”

Fauci offered words of encouragement for students experiencing difficulties as a result of the coronavirus pandemic and assured listeners that “they’re living through something quite historic.”

He maintained that students will emerge from this situation stronger “with renewed strength that they could get through something that is historic in proportion that generations have not had the opportunity to experience.”

“I have real faith in our young people,” Fauci said. “There is light at the end of the tunnel. And they’ve got to realize that they need to hang in there and hang in there together. I mean, we are all in this together.”

Fauci believes that students should “pull together” to refrain from large gatherings, practice mask-wearing and continue social distancing in order to more quickly return to a form of normalcy. 

“The students have to realize this will end, and we will get back to normality,” Fauci said. “We’ll have learned lessons, but we will get back to normality. They could look back on this and say, you know, ‘I’ve been through it and I got through it.’”

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