Chief Medical Advisor to the President Dr. Anthony Fauci ( Photo: Chandler West)

Doctor Fauci re-emphasizes the importance of masking as the U.S passes 500,000 lives lost.

 

In a press conference on Monday, lead scientists on the COVID-19 Response Team, Dr. Anthony Fauci and Dr. Rochelle Walensky emphasized the vital importance of masking to re-open schools and stop the spread of the virus. 

The press conference started on a solemn note, just hours after the nation reached the grim milestone of 500,000 lives lost to the pandemic. In response, the President, First-Lady, Vice-President and the Second-Gentleman will host a ceremony at sundown to have a moment of silence to honor those lost to the pandemic. 

“For those of us in the administration, the occasion makes us more determined to turn the tide and COVID-19, so losses can subside and healing can begin,” Andy Slavitt said during the conference. 

Last week, the cold and brutal winter weather caused vaccine deliveries to decrease by 31 percent, Slavitt said at the briefing. However, after many overnight shifts, help from military personnel, and help from services like UPS, delivered this week are expected to make-up for the delay. Today alone, approximately 7 million vaccines will be delivered to administration states, Slavitt said. 

The White House Response Team is encouraging states to ramp up administration efforts in response to the delay as well. 

The European and South African variants

As more people are receiving the vaccine and cases are declining, the European and South African variants are starting to spread across the nation’s leading public health experts to re-emphasize the necessity of masking and social distancing. In order to comfortably re-open school, mask rules must be enforced, as a study released by the CDC showed that the two main reasons for COVID-19 outbreaks in schools were an inability to socially distance and a lack of adherence to mask policies. 

“In particular, universal mask-wearing, physical distancing of at least six feet and using cohorting or podding of students are important to minimize spread throughout the school environment,” Walensky said. “This is especially true for schools that have high rates of COVID-19 in their community.”

As the new variants spread, the FDA will be guiding the approval of different therapeutics that have already been approved for the original variant, Fauci said. They will remain a leading source for understanding the effectiveness of COVID-19 tests, vaccines and therapeutics. 

Fauci outlined the therapeutics granted emergency FDA approval which includes, Remdesivir, Lilly and Regeneron antibodies and convalescent plasma. However Fauci said that the South African variant has been able to evade some of these treatments, the FDA will continue to monitor this situation. 

Even as more and more Americans receive the vaccine, normalcy will not be immediate. While the vaccine undoubtedly works to prevent COVID-19, it is still unknown if an individual could still spread the disease even after being vaccinated. This means that even after more Americans receive the vaccine, masks will still be vital to overcoming the pandemic.

“There will be things that you [after being vaccinated] will not be able to do because the burden of virus in society will be very high, which it is right now,” Fauci said. 

After receiving the full vaccination, if exposed to the virus, quarantine will no longer be necessary. However, masks are likely to stay prevalent for quite some time. In the meantime, social distancing and masking will help to control the spread and continue the downward trends we are experiencing now. 

“We are still at an unacceptably high baseline level with the seven-day average being quite high,” Fauci said.