Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, joined Stephen Curry on Instagram for a live question and answer session regarding the COVID-19 pandemic.
Fauci continued to caution the public not to panic in wake of the pandemic but to take the disease seriously, adhering to social distancing recommendations. In terms of a return to sports and large gatherings, Fauci said it's paramount to continue waiting until disease spread begins to decline.
"What you need is to see the trajectory of the curve start to come down," Fauci said. "We've seen that in China, they went up and down. They're starting to get back to some normal life. ... The United States is a big country. We have so many different regions. Like New York City right now is having a terrible time, and yet there are places in the country that are really doing quite well. You could probably identify people, contact trace, and get them out of circulation.
"Whereas in New York City, it's doing what's called mitigation—trying to prevent, as best you can, the spread. ... We could start thinking about to some degree of normality when the country as a whole has turned that corner and start coming down. Then you can pinpoint cases much more easily than getting overwhelmed by cases, which was going on in New York City."
New York State has more than 30,000 confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus, many of which are located in New York City. No other state has more than 5,000 confirmed cases. The state has administered more than 100,000 tests, by far the most in the country, as the medical community works overtime to help prevent the spread.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has recommended not holding gatherings of 50 or more people. Bars, restaurants and several other non-essential businesses have been forced to close in many states as part of a widespread public safety measure. The NBA, NHL and MLB have each indefinitely suspended their seasons.
Fauci said testing, which has been at a scarcity in some areas, has increased nationwide because the government has been relying on the private sector to mass manufacture. He said there are now "hundreds of thousands" of tests available but cautioned against going to an emergency room unless you are having severe symptoms.
Instead, Fauci said the best course of action in the case of mild, flu-like symptoms is to self-quarantine and contact your primary care physician to set up a test. Avoiding emergency rooms, many of which are crowded during the pandemic, limits the exposure of the disease.
For those currently infected with the virus, Fauci said two negative cultures 24 hours apart are currently needed to clear someone. The medical community is currently working on a more common, time-based protocol because it would not be "feasible" to run cultures on everyone infected.
While further testing will be needed, Fauci said he believes those who have the COVID-19 virus would not be able to contract it a second time.
"We haven't done the specific testing to determine that, but if this acts like every virus similar to it that we know, the chances are overwhelming that if you get infected, recover from infection, that you are not going to get infected with the same virus," Fauci said. "Which means you can then safely go out into the community and feel immune. So that you can not only protect yourself, get back to work, get back to your job, but you'll be able to have what you refer to as herd immunity—enough people have recovered in the community, that gives the virus very little chance to spread rapidly."
Fauci cautioned against any type of nationwide lockdown or panic, saying certain areas where the spread has not spiked could slowly return to a more normal (albeit careful) life.
"It is not an all or none process," Fauci said. "When you're locking down, the way [California Gov. Gavin Newsom] did in California and the way [New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo's] doing in New York City, that's the extreme—that's a heavy hammer on something. Even if you kind of lessen those restrictions, everybody, until this is over, should practice some degree of physical distancing and care. No big crowds, wash your hands a lot, be careful.
"You can do that and still get back to somewhat of a normal life. There's a big difference between the extreme of locking a city down, opening up a bit but being more careful than you normally would be. I think there are places in the country now, where you want to look at carefully and say 'maybe you want to pull back a little bit on the restriction.' So long as you just don't let it rip and say 'I don't care what happens.' You treat New York City a little bit different than you treat Nebraska."
While there are some areas in the country less affected than New York, which is currently over 30,000 cases, Fauci repeatedly warned to proceed with caution—in part because he expects a second wave of the virus at some point in the future. A vaccine is currently being developed but is 12-18 months out from approval, so the hope is to have it available by next winter.
"This virus is very, very transmissible, and we're seeing it throughout the world, I cannot imagine it's just going to disappear," Fauci said. "So, vaccines are going to be important for the next time around—not for what we're dealing with right now."
Fauci said the hope is, that by self-isolating and social distancing now, the medical community will be able to catch up to the virus and ensure similar measures aren't necessary when it returns.
"I think if we do it right it will happen this way: We will get enough experience so that when it does come back, we will be able to immediately identify, isolate and contact trace," Fauci said. "If you do that effectively, you don't have an outbreak. You contain it at a very low level, which would mean we won't have to lock down again. We can treat individual [cases] and prevent the outbreak. Prevent what we're seeing in New York City, prevent what we're starting to see right now in New Orleans. ... We'll be much different than what we're doing right now."
Curry's full half-hour interview with Dr. Fauci is available to view in his Instagram story.