'It's time for a reset' in public health and personal response to COVID: Tom Bossert

Dr. Jen Ashton and ABC News contributor Tom Bossert break down the latest coronavirus developments.
6:40 | 08/02/20

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Transcript for 'It's time for a reset' in public health and personal response to COVID: Tom Bossert
of this or any other pandemic. Testing does not replace personal responsibility. This is the most complex public health response this nation has undertaken in more than a century. It's such a highly transmisable virus. It's unlikely it's going to disappear. Some of the nation's top health officials on capitol hill Friday testifying about why covid is still surging in the United States. For more let's bring in our chief medical correspondent Dr. Jen Ashton and ABC news contributor and former homeland security adviser Tom Bossert. Tom, let me start with you. The director of the Harvard global health initiative told ABC this week that the reason the United States is the global hot spot is that we haven't taken this seriously, so what do we now when people have coronavirus fatigue, and still mixed messaging, is it time for a reset? It's time for a reset not just with our public health officials who need to develop better plans for testing allocation, who need more resources. That's a joint responsibility of our federal state and local officials. As he said, it's responsibility of each of us for people who want to send kids back to school this fall, how are they going to change their behavior to earn that right? And Jen, the push to wear masks has intensified in recent weeks. 33 states and D.C. Now mandating wearing masks, but like it or not, there are those in the country who are still not convinced, are there studies that show they do fight the disease? Well, Martha, first of all, we have to remember that this area of aerosol science and transmission dynamics of this virus is literally evolving in real time, you know we've only known about this virus for seven months and in that time we have seen data that shows that masks dramatically reduce transmission or spread to someone else and there's new and emerging data that it may -- underscore may -- protect the wearer. So, again, we have to merge here and hybridize science, medicine and public health and personal behavior as Tom Bossert just mentioned. Jen, I watched your terrific interview with Dr. Fauci this week, what was your biggest takeaway from that? Well, the biggest takeaway, Martha, is that he's using commonsense and integrated science and medical data and he told me that, you know, mucous membranes are how this virus gains entry into the body, those are eyes, nose and mouth. And he talked about why eye protection in regular glasses, is quote, probably a good idea even though it's not yet a universal recommendation, so I think as we hear someone like Dr. Fauci say things like that we have to understand that, you know, these things are unpleasant, they're not familiar to us, but right now it has to be a fill the boat, all hands on deck if we want to control and slow the spread of this virus. And Tom, testing still faces really serious backlogs. 55% of the tests over the last month took more than three days to complete and then there is contract tracing, which you were solidly behind as a way to help open the economy, is that even possible to do effectively when so many people are waiting days and sometimes weeks for their test results? Two things about those test results. First a clinical need for them. If you're too long to get the results they're clinically useless. If you know you're sick on day one and you can tell those who've been in contact with, if you don't know until day four, you not only have more people with whom you've come into contact, more people they've come into contact with, you increased everyone's odds by fourfold factor. If you don't contact trace quickly you're running out of your chance to having any successful tracing and isolation. You just can't do that now. Well, that's right. You know, this is a really troubling thing. The evidence now is pretty clear from overseas and the first wave here in the spring that the total number of deaths eventual deaths from any wave is six times, seven times of any peak of any wave. If we assume 33,000 deaths associated with this summer wave, multiply by that six or seven, and we're talking about adding another 200,000 or 230,000 deaths to the existing count. And Jen, with those terrible statistics, I want to turn back to schools. Tom mentioned schools, we learned this week about a ymca overnight camp in Georgia where 260 of the 597 at the camp tested positive. They had only been there four days in June, that doesn't seem to bode well for going back to school in certain places? It doesn't bode well, Martha. I think that we need to change our mindset here with a new paradigm that really has to do with not being surprised about when we hear of cases but how we will manage those cases, how we will mitigate the risk. You never drop the risk to zero. What I'm concerned about is a rush on a time line that really, you know, we're on the virus' time line, we're not on an academic school year time line and if steps aren't place in to mitigate risk and to react to those cases and to protect the health of students, their families, staff and faculty, we're not in a clinical or medical or scientific or educational position to move forward. So this has to be worked out in real time with flexibility and the ability to integrate new information and data as we get it and adapt and respond to it in a health, scientific and medal way. Thanks to you both. You'll be back with us many times in the coming months.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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