Dr. Anthony Fauci says there's 'virtually no chance' that COVID-19 will be eradicated

FILE - In this April 17, 2020, file photo, President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence listen as Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, speaks about the coronavirus in the James Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House in Washington. The Trump administration’s leading health experts on safely dealing with the novel coronavirus will be testifying in a Senate hearing by a videoconference after three of them and the committee's chairman were exposed to someone who tested positive for COVID-19. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon, File)Associated Press
  • Dr. Anthony Fauci said that there's little chance that the novel coronavirus, which causes the disease COVID-19, will be completely eradicated in an interview with NBC Sports.
  • Fauci said that with "global travel, every single day, of literally hundreds of thousands of people coming into the United States every day from all over, there's no chance we're going to be virus-free."
  • He said that the 2002 outbreak of SARS, caused by another type of coronavirus, was contained largely because it didn't spread as quickly as the novel coronavirus.
  • "It is so transmissible, and it is so widespread throughout the world, that even if our infections get well-controlled and go down dramatically during the summer, there is virtually no chance it will be eradicated," Fauci said.
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Dr. Anthony Fauci said that there's "virtually no chance" that the novel coronavirus, which causes the disease COVID-19, will be completely eradicated in an interview with NBC Sports football writer and columnist Peter King.

While many sports fans are hopeful that the virus' will be controlled enough to hold a regular football season in the fall, Fauci warned that given how contagious the virus is and how easily it can be spread by people with no symptoms, the logistical hurdles to holding any kind of large-scale team sports will be immense.

Fauci, the nation's top infectious disease expert, compared the novel coronavirus with the 2002 outbreak of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, or SARS, a disease caused by another form coronavirus that is quite similar in genetic form to the novel coronavirus, but spread less quickly. Advertisement

"So, unlike the virus SARS, back in 2002, when we had an outbreak of about 8,000 people and close to 800 deaths, and then the virus just essentially petered out by good public health measures by the simple reason that it wasn't efficiently or effectively transmitted from one person to another," Fauci said.

As of Monday, there are over four million confirmed cases of COVID-19 worldwide, including 1.3 million cases in the United States. The death toll in the US is nearing 80,000 lives lost. And while some parts of the US are seeing case counts decline, the vast majority of states aren't testing nearly enough people per day to consider safely reopening for business, according to estimates from the Harvard Global Health Institute.

"It is so transmissible, and it is so widespread throughout the world, that even if our infections get well-controlled and go down dramatically during the summer, there is virtually no chance it will be eradicated," Fauci said of the novel coronavirus.
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Fauci told NBC that even if the US gets its case numbers under control and adopts effective mitigation measures, it'll be particularly difficult to stop the virus altogether once the US and the world start to resume regular international flights and other travel.

"There will be infections in the Southern Hemisphere, in South Africa, in Argentina, places like that," Fauci said. "And with the travel, the global travel, every single day, of literally hundreds of thousands of people coming into the United States every day from all over, there's no chance we're going to be virus-free." The coronavirus is both more contagious and more deadly than other viral illnesses like seasonal influenza, and a vaccine against it almost certainly won't be available by the time flu season comes around. While initial phase one vaccines are underway at a record pace, a deployable vaccine won't be able for another 12 to 18 months by the most optimistic estimates. Advertisement

In the absence of a vaccine, Fauci and other public health experts are advocating for mass testing at a far greater scale, a robust army of contact tracers to locate and stop outbreaks in their tracks, and selective isolation and quarantining for the sick.

"Now, even if the virus goes down dramatically in June and July and August, as the virus starts returning in the fall, it would be in my mind, shame on us if we don't have in place all of the mechanisms to prevent it from blowing up again," Fauci added. "In other words, enough testing to test everybody that needs to be tested. Enough testing so that when someone gets infected, you could immediately do contact tracing and isolation to prevent the infection from going to a couple of infections to hundreds of infections. That's how you control an outbreak."

Read the full interview at NBC Sports>>

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