New Jersey is positioned to continue carefully reopening its economy because its coronavirus infection rates and associated parameters now have a lower baseline, Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), told Gov. Phil Murphy during a Facebook Live event today.
Fauci explained, “… you are positioned to do two things: To continue to gradually and prudently open your economy in a careful way; at the same time avoiding the challenging difficulty of what happens when a lot of things (activities) go indoors versus outdoors [in the fall and winter].”
The NIAID director cited other US regions that have elevated public health metrics and potentially may not fare well during the colder months, noting there are between 35,000 to 45,000 new COVID-19 cases detected each day in the US, overall.
Fauci said, “When you look at it as a country, there are some states, cities, counties, [and] regions that are really going to have a problem if they don’t get that baseline below a [certain] level so that when [they] do get [COVID-19] cases, [they] can handle them.”
Fauci meanwhile advised Facebook Live viewers to be vaccinated against influenza ideally by October to avoid a combination of COVID-19 and influenza.
He noted that Australia, South Africa, and Argentina have so effectively adhered to social distancing, hand washing and wearing face masks that they have not only had decreased COVID-19 infections, but have also had a “practically a non-existent flu season.”
Fauci said, “… this means that if we do it right, we can have a double-positive whammy: We bring down the flu at the same time we keep the country, and … New Jersey … at that very low [coronavirus] baseline.”
Fauci meanwhile said a coronavirus vaccine could potentially be discovered before the end of the year, as he also outlined an elaborate vaccine approval process including independent analysis and making data available to the public, which should ensure that such a vaccine is indeed safe.
Fauci said, “The big elephant in the room is: Is anybody going to do an end-run to try to get [a vaccine] more quickly than is safe? Because then people will say, ‘Wait a minute, is this really a safe vaccine?’”
Of data becoming public and then being examined by others – including universities – Fauci said that if anybody tries to do something unsafe, “… it is going to be public: People will know what’s going on.”
There will likely be a vaccine “answer,” again, in November or December, Fauci said, although authorities would wait longer before deeming it safe and effective. At that point, vaccines could be available at the end of the year with some 700 million doses manufactured by April.
Fauci explained, “That means that, theoretically, you could vaccinate everybody, but in reality, the logistics and practicality of getting people vaccinated likely will be [toward] the second or third [quarter], or beginning of the fourth quarter of the year…”
Any vaccine would not be 100% effective, however, and the United States would be “lucky” to have a vaccine that is 70% or 75% effective for individuals, Fauci said.
He added, “When a vaccine comes, we look at it as an important tool to supplement the public health measures that we do. It will allow us to more quickly – and with less stringency – get back to some degree of ‘normal.’ But, it is not going to eliminate the need to be prudent and careful with our public health measures.”
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