BILLINGS — Dr. Anthony Fauci urged Montanans Wednesday to follow health measures aimed at slowing COVID spread, noting the emergency of two vaccines could mean a return to normal in mid-2021.
Fauci sat down for a roughly 15-minute interview with MTN News anchor Jeanelle Slade over Zoom, where he discussed COVD over the holidays, the timeline for the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, an assessment of the pandemic and other topics related to COVID-19.
“The end is in sight. We don’t just want to throw up our hands and give up,” said Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.
When asked what he would say to Montanans who refuse to masks during indoor gatherings, including state GOP lawmakers during a recent meeting in Helena, Fauci urged them to look at the data outlining the virus’ impact on health-care facilities.
“If you continue to get infections and you overrun your healthcare capacity, that’s something that’s going to be very disturbing,” he said, noting the packed ICU beds in Billings. “That’s when you’re going to have to make the decision of who gets the bed.”
He added: “It’s not fake news. It's not a hoax. It’s real.”
Watch the full interview below:
Other topics covered by Fauci:
Vaccine distribution and safety
The CDC has already determined that health-care workers and residents of long-term care facilities are first in line for vaccination. The Pfizer vaccine should start heading out Dec. 10 and 11, while the Moderna vaccine will come a week later.
On Wednesday, the United Kingdom became the first western nation to authorize use of the Pfizer vaccine, vaulting the country ahead of the United State and the European Union for distribution.
Fauci said that's "fine" but added that he didn't believe the UK scrutinized the vaccine as closely of the Food and Drug Administration in the United States did.
Both vaccines underwent trial involving 35,000 to 45,000 tests, and oversight was independent from the companies, Fauci said.
“Career scientists, not politicians, determine that’s it now ready to go to the people,” he said, adding that he plans to take the vaccine.
A return to normal isn’t likely until next spring or summer as vaccine production ramps up and more people are inoculated, he said. Open access for low-risk groups will happen in April, he said. Most people will be vaccinated in May or June, opening the door for a normal start to the fall school year, Fauci said.
COVID and the holidays
Fauci said he expects to see a nationwide rise in about two weeks of infections related to Thanksgiving celebrations. He noted that people shouldn’t greatly modify their Christmas plans, but he echoed previous recommendations to keep those celebrations small and among members of the same household.
“This is a pretty precarious situation that we’re in right now,” Fauci said.
Fauci borrowed a page from Charles Dickens, noting the first line of his book on the pandemic would read, “It was the best of times, and it was the worst of time.”
The best of times, he said, was the work of doctors and nurses- the true heroes of the times- and the efforts to develop vaccines in a speedy manner.
Bars and restaurants
Fauci said he does not go to bars and restaurants, where experts the virus can spread easily, but he does order takeout a couple times a week to support the business.
He added that more federal relief should come to those business owners, who are bearing a large financial burden during the pandemic.