Dr. Fauci's bleak remarks: His 'worst nightmare' has occurred — and it 'isn't over yet'

Dr. Fauci's bleak remarks: His 'worst nightmare' has occurred — and it 'isn't over yet'
Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Dr. Anthony S. Fauci attends a coronavirus update briefing Tuesday, April 7, 2020, in the James S. Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House. (Official White House Photo by Tia Dufour)

Dr. Anthony Fauci delivered a bleak assessment of the state of the world's coronavirus outbreak on Tuesday while speaking to leaders in the biotechnology industry, even while many in public life act as if the pandemic crisis has faded.

“In a period of four months, it has devastated the whole world,” the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and one of the leading American experts on the crisis said of the virus, according to a New York Times report. “And it isn’t over yet.”

Fauci said the way the outbreak has unfolded is his "worst nightmare." He has been taken aback by how quickly the virus spread globally. He always knew this kind of pandemic was possible, but he didn't expect it to move with such speed, driven by international travel and the inherent infectiousness of the pathogen.

He offered some hope, saying that it's "almost certain" researchers will be able to successfully develop a vaccine. But until we have one, there's little chance that the virus will disappear on its own.

President Donald Trump has repeatedly suggested the end of the pandemic is in sight, and even as thousands of people die each week from the disease and tens of thousands or more new cases emerge, he spends little time discussing it publicly anymore.

For Fauci, though, the threat the virus poses is still in its early stages.

“Oh my goodness,” he said. “Where is it going to end? We’re still at the beginning of it.”

While the country has rushed to reopen following implementation of lockdown and widespread social distancing measures, cases of coronavirus have begun to creep up and even surge in more than a dozen states. The state-based reopenings have often occurred in violation of the administration's official guidelines. The result seems to be that while many other countries have crushed the curve of infections and death, drastically limiting the devastation, the United States may be prepared to accept higher levels of death from the virus for an extended period. Many, many lives could be lost unnecessarily.

At the same time, the worst result — sudden, severe spikes comparable to the outbreak that tore through New York City early on — has not yet occurred because of the reopenings. That may mean that we're getting a handle on how to operate our economy without the most extreme outbreaks of the disease. But our course of action also may set us up for a second wave of infections in the fall, which has the potential to be worse than the first wave.

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