Continuing to caution Americans that the coronavirus pandemic is far from over, Dr. Anthony Fauci said Monday that more states are likely to experience further spikes in their numbers of new COVID-19 cases. In a remote video interview with The Journal of the American Medical Association editor-in-chief Dr. Howard Bauchner, Fauci explained the data he was basing that prediction on.
"It's become clear now as you look back at the states in the southern region that have surged up ... that prior to the surge, you could detect an early increase in the percent positive for any given state," he said. "Even if it goes up by one to one and a half percentage points, and it continues to go up, it generally does not spontaneously come down. It means it's a good predictor of a surge."
Early this summer, many states and municipalities rushed to reopen, only to experience rises in new COVID-19 diagnoses to levels that often were many times higher than their previous peaks.
In regards to those reopenings, Fauci said: "You may need to pause, you may need to drop back a little bit. I don't think you necessarily have to revert to going all the way back to closing, but you have to intensify what I consider five or six fundamental things that we know from experience help to blunt resurgences and can prevent resurgences from occurring."
Those fundamentals, he reiterated, include wearing masks, avoiding crowds and crowded places, maintaining a distance of six feet or more from others, prioritizing outdoors over indoors, and following good hand hygiene.
As the longtime director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), Fauci is arguably the most high-profile and well-respected public sector authority in the country on the coronavirus pandemic.
There are still no drugs formally approved as coronavirus treatments, and no vaccine is yet available, although most big pharmaceutical companies and a raft of biotechs are attempting to developing at least one.
Notable among these is Moderna (MRNA -3.93%), which quickly reached the pivotal phase 3 clinical trial stage for its mRNA-1273 vaccine candidate. Four other coronavirus vaccine candidates have reached phase 3 trials so far, including AZD1222, being co-developed by AstraZeneca (AZN 0.11%).
Both Moderna's and AstraZeneca's vaccine candidates have been designated as among the five most promising by the government's Operation Warp Speed initiative, which is providing the companies with extra support and public money to speed them through the development and testing process.