White House coronavirus advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci said Friday the coronavirus is so contagious it won’t likely ever completely go away, contradicting statements made by President Donald Trump who has repeatedly said Covid-19 will eventually vanish.
“I do not believe it would disappear because it’s such a highly transmissible virus,” Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told a House Select Subcommittee hearing on containing the coronavirus outbreak.
The coronavirus, which emerged about seven months ago, has infected more than 17 million people and killed at least 673,822, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. The U.S. has the worst outbreak in the world with more than 4 million cases and at least 152,075 deaths as of Friday, according to Hopkins data.
Fauci’s comments are at odds with Trump, who has repeatedly claimed that the virus would “disappear.” The president’s remarks come amid warnings from health experts, including at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, that Covid-19 cases and deaths could rise this fall.
While the virus will not disappear, Fauci has previously said it’s possible world leaders and public health officials could work to bring the pandemic down to “low levels.”
He said the U.S. has so many cases because some states did not shut down early in the outbreak while others reopened too soon.
He said other countries were able to eliminate their first wave of outbreaks after shutting down at least 90% of their nonessential businesses.
“In the attempt to reopen in some situations states did not abide strictly by the guidelines that the task force and the White House has put out. And others that even did abide by it, the people in the state actually were congregating in crowds and not wearing masks,” he said Friday.
“I think there was such a diversity of response in this country from different states that we really did not have a unified bringing everything down,” he said.
Fauci also said there’s never a guarantee scientists will discover a safe and effective vaccine for the coronavirus, though he’s “cautiously optimistic.” On Thursday, senior administration officials at the Department of Health and Human Services said on a conference call that Pfizer and competitor Moderna, which began separate phase three trials for their potential vaccines on Monday, have already vaccinated “several hundred people” within the first few days.
“We are going very quickly,” he said. “I do not believe that there will be vaccines so far ahead of us that we will have to depend on other countries to get us vaccine.”
This is a developing story. Please check back for updates.