The U.S. is not even close to winning against COVID-19, a health expert’s “worst nightmare” — and we are not even midway through it, Dr. Anthony Fauci said Thursday.

“We are certainly not at the end of the game. I’m not even sure we’re halfway through,” the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases said, when asked for a baseball analogy to describe the situation. “Certainly we are not winning the game right now. We are not leading it.”

With Johns Hopkins University logging 15.3 million confirmed cases as of Thursday afternoon, 4 million of them in the U.S. alone, with more than 600,000 deaths globally including 143,846 in this country, the coronavirus pathogen is a health expert’s “worst nightmare,” Fauci told Betsy McKay of The Wall Street Journal, who was hosting a webinar, Fighting Pandemics: 2020 and Beyond, put on by the TB Alliance.

“It’s the perfect storm,” Fauci said. “We often talk about outbreaks and pandemics, be they influenza or other pathogens that have to have a few characteristics that make them particularly formidable. Well, this particular virus has that.”

It jumps species from animals to humans, it’s new so there is no background immunity that we know of, and it’s respiratory-borne, he noted.

Moreover, two unique characteristics make it “very very compellingly imposing,” Fauci said. Being “spectacularly efficient in spreading from human to human” is one of those, he said, and the other is its “substantial degree of morbidity and mortality” in some populations, such as the elderly and those with underlying conditions.


“We are living, right now, through a historic pandemic outbreak,” he said. “And we are right now in a situation where we do not see any particular end in sight, for the following reasons.”

Trying to open up during the height of the pandemic is leading to a resurgence of cases, he said, here and in other countries. The resurgence means “we’ve got to do much better in controlling the outbreak in general but also particularly as we try to reopen,” he said.

The gobsmacking array of symptoms that range from “literally nothing — namely, no symptoms at all in a substantial proportion of the population — to some who get ill with minor symptoms, to some who get ill enough to be in bed for weeks and have post-viral syndromes, and others (who) get hospitalized, require oxygen, intensive care, ventilation,” and even die, makes for a unique “spectrum of involvement” that sets the novel coronavirus apart. This means SARS-CoV-2 will never truly go away, Fauci said.

However, he does believe we will eventually get control of it, given good public health measures, some measure of herd immunity, and a vaccine.

“I don’t really see this as all of a sudden morphing into a common cold where everybody just gets sniffles and nobody gets seriously ill,” he said, in answer to McKay’s query. “I just don’t see that happening.”


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