The coronavirus surge is growing worse than ever. "We're dealing, as we all know now, with an unprecedented outbreak with COVID-19, that continually rechallenges us with new variants," said Dr. Anthony Fauci, the chief medical advisor to the President and the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. "We've gone from the original strain, the ancestral strain through Alpha and Beta and Delta. And now we're dealing with Omicron, which is very unusual because of its extraordinary capability of spreading so efficiently from human to human. We are now having record numbers of cases, record numbers of hospitalizations. And we are still at a situation we're approaching about 2,000 deaths per day." And although "the fact that it is known now through multiple observations in different countries to be inherently a bit less severe, nonetheless, the sheer volume of infections is making a real challenge." How can you stay safe? Fauci spoke with Kathy Roth-Douquet, Co-Founder and CEO of Blue Star Families, about that. Read on for 7 life-saving pieces of advice—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had COVID.
Dr. Fauci Said This is the Best Way to Stay Safe Leaving the House Now
How can you stay safe now? "Well, there are some fundamental tenets of public health with COVID that I know many of the families are already practicing," said Dr. Fauci, and "that is to get vaccinated. And if you are vaccinated, make sure you get your boost within five months if it's an mRNA; in two months if it's a J&J. The other is to be very prudent in what you do. For example, if you go into congregate settings, indoor congregate settings, and you do not know what the status is of the people around you, absolutely wear a well-fitted high quality mask and wear it consistently. The other thing that you could do is that when you are engaged in social interactions, like you're having family dinners or friends over for dinner, if you have the opportunity, you might want to take the extra step of getting a rapid test. One of those antigen tests, which are not a hundred percent sensitive, but they are very helpful in giving you a field. Particularly if you do more than one test as to whether or not you might have an infection that's without any symptoms that you might inadvertently spread it within the family unit."
Dr. Fauci Said This About the Best Masks
"The most important thing for anyone is to wear the highest quality mask that fits well and that you can tolerate—namely, you don't want the very, very best of the mask and you can't keep it on for any more than 10 or 15 minutes," said Dr. Fauci. "So it's a combination. The best mask you can get. And the order of gradation is N95, clearly the best KN95, next surgical masks. Then cloth masks. If you get a good fit, the one thing that the CDC says that's very important is that any mask is better than no mask. That's the first thing. And if you're gonna wear a mask, one needs to be well fitted."
If You Only Have 30 Seconds to Convince Someone to Get Vaccinated, Fauci Would Say This
"Look at the statistics," Fauci said, "They are stunningly impressive. If you look at people who are unvaccinated compared to vaccinated, the latest statistics are, an unvaccinated person has a 10 times greater chance of getting infected, a 17 times greater chance of getting hospitalized and a 20 times greater chance of dying compared to a vaccinated person. Those statistics alone should get you to be really enthusiastic about protecting yourself and your family. Also masks clearly now have shown to be very effective in not only protecting you from getting infected, but protecting you from transmitting it to someone else."
Dr. Fauci Says This to Anyone Who Thinks the Vaccine is "Unnatural"
Roth-Douquet said she hears from some people that they don't want to put something "unnatural" in their bodies. "Well, what's more unnatural than the vaccine is actually the infection itself," said Dr. Fauci. "So I mean, I think people need to understand that using the word 'unnatural; is really inappropriate. You're doing something that before it goes into the general population has been tested on tens of thousands of people for safety and effectiveness. And right now globally, we've distributed about 9 billion doses of the vaccine in the United States. You know, we have literally, uh, hundreds of millions of courses of vaccinations that have been, uh, delivered. We have 63% of the entire population has been fully vaccinated. 72% have received at least one dose. We have a lot of experience. So people who say, well, I'm not quite sure about it. This is something unnatural. Just look at the experience together with the data that I gave you about the difference between an unvaccinated person and a vaccinated person with regard to disease, hospitalization, and death."
Dr. Fauci Says This is Why You Can't Be Complacent About Omicron
How does Omicron affect you differently than, say, Delta? "It doesn't really affect them in a substantially different way because the way you get infected through the respiratory tract, you can either be without symptoms mildly symptomatic, or you can get severely ill," said Dr. Fauci. "The one thing that is somewhat of a positive is that on a case by case basis, in data that we've gotten from South Africa, from the UK, and now a lot of accumulating data in the United States indicates that on a case by case basis, Omicron is less severe. In other words, shorter time of duration of being in the hospital, less of a requirement for mechanical ventilation. That's the good news. The sobering news is that Omicron is so extraordinarily efficient in spreading from person to person that the sheer volume and numbers of infected people can counter and obviate the positive aspect of it being less virulent. …That's why we can't be complacent when it comes to Omicron."
Dr. Fauci Said Kids are in Danger, so Weigh the Risks
Separating kids from parents during quarantine can be tough for all parties, "That is a natural feeling, very understandable, but something we have to deal with, because if you look at the effect of COVID on kids, it was felt to be, you know, not particularly important. Well, it is true. If you want to be perfectly frank and candid about the data that a child who gets infected is much less likely to get a severe manifestation of COVID," said Dr. Fauci. " However, the risk is not zero, and we have plenty of children—when you look at children's hospitals throughout the country, plenty of children who are severely ill with COVID-19 requiring hospitalization, some even dying. So although the risk is less than in an adult, you have to balance. People make decisions based on the relative risk that they're willing to take. You would recommend that if you could tolerate a brief separation from the family during that period of recovery and do it, if it becomes impossible, then you have to assume the risk of spreading it to the child. Those are just real world issues you have to deal with."
He said he hopes a vaccine for kids under 5 would be available "I hope very soon. You never want to out guess or get ahead of the FDA, but the studies that were done showed that the dose that was used in kids six months since the 24 months was the correct dose that showed that that was not inferior to the response in adults. However, in a very disappointing way, the dose that was used for children 24 months to four years, did not induce a spawns that was felt to be adequate. So they're determining now that for children within that age group, it is likely that it will be a three dose vaccine and that being the case, it's gonna take a little longer to get those data to the FDA and approved my hope it's that it's gonna be within the next month or so, and not much later than that, but I can't guarantee that."
Dr. Fauci Said Experts are Working on a Vaccine That Doesn't Require a Shot
Dr. Fauci, of the vaccine, said "It's unlikely it will be a pill and more likely would be something where you spray like the flu mist with influenza, right? So I don't think it'll be necessarily, although it's not impossible, it won't necessarily be something where you swallow as a pill, but more likely something that you could put a patch on you and it penetrates in the skin or spraying in the nose or in the throat that might actually do that. And there's a lot of good research going on right now to try and develop an alternative type of vaccine that doesn't require an injection." Until then, get vaccinated or boosted, and to protect your life and the lives of others, don't visit any of these 35 Places You're Most Likely to Catch COVID.