Dr. Fauci to Muir: 'Universal wearing of masks' necessary to combat COVID-19

In an interview with "World News Tonight" anchor David Muir, Dr. Anthony Fauci called images of crowded school hallways “disturbing,” and said the virus won’t go away spontaneously.
9:04 | 08/10/20

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Transcript for Dr. Fauci to Muir: 'Universal wearing of masks' necessary to combat COVID-19
We talked to this country's top infectious disease expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci, late this afternoon. We asked him about the children in this country. Nearly 100,000 of them testing positive in just the last two weeks of July, and we ask the him about the images from some schools already. The crowded hallways, many students without masks. And Dr. Fauci made it clear to me that he thinks there should be universal mask wearing in American schools. Dr. Fauci, thanks for joining us here and I want to start off with the news. We saw these new numbers today, increases in hospitalizations in 20 state, increases in daily deaths in 25 states and I'm sure you're aware of this new study from the American academy of pe pediatrics. Nearly 100,000 children have tested positive for coronavirus in the last two weeks and this, of course, comes as many schools across the country prepare to re-open. Do you feel comfortable with much of the country sending children back to school? No, it's really a mixed bag in some respects, David, because we live in a pretty large country that has differences in different parts of the country. I think as a default physician, we should try to the best of our ability to get the children back to school for the reasons that we're familiar with about the negative consequences, psychologically and otherwise on kids, as well as the spin-off type of downstream ripple effects on families about getting kids back to work. Having said that as a default princele which we should try to do, there's a however there, but the however is that we've always got to make a primary consideration the health, the safety and the welfare of the children and of the teachers. Now, having said that if you look at the country, there are parts of the country where the level of infection is really quite low and has been maintained as quite low. Under those circumstances, I think you can't compare them to other parts of the country. I know what you said there, Dr. Fauci. We have to take a look at one region at a time but one thing we can do is look at the schools that have tried to open already and have seen the images out that have high school in Georgia, students in the hallways am not wearing masks. Little social distancing. All over social media. Now we learned nine students answer staff have already tested positive in that school alone. Do those images concern you and should all students in this country be wearing masks? You know, I'm one and I've said it for so long, David, that I really do believe if you -- and it's part of what I call a comprehensive way to really avoid the things that you would just be referring to. There should be universal wearing of masks. There should be the extent possible social distancing. Avoiding crowds. Outdoors always better than indoors and being in a situation where you continually have the capability of washing your hands and cleaning up with sanitizers. When I see sites like that, it is disturbing to me. When you hear this local guidance coming from some schools that mask wearing will be value tri for students in those school, you disagree with you say universal mask wearing? You see, the issue is that, you know, it's going to be decided at the local level. I could give you my opinion. Right, you just said universal wearing of masks. Right. I would -- I feel that universal wearing of masks is one of five or six things that are very important in preventing the upsurge of infection and in turning around the infections that we are seeing surging. Dr. Fauci, I know for a long time there's been real concern about the fall and potential second wave of all this when we have covid combined with flu season. You sounded optimistic saying Americans might be age to blunt the flu season with social distancing and masks but we also heard of the head of the CDC Robert Redfield not so long ago, he said I do think the fall and winter of 2020 and 2021 are going to be probably the most difficult times we see in American public health. That sounds a lot different than the optimism from you in recent days so give us a bit of a reality check here. What should we expect? Sure, well, David, thank you for putting it into that context because those two things are not incompatible. If we do not do the things in a uniform way that I'm talking about, I totally agree with Dr. Redfield that as we get into the winter and fall with the likelihood we'd have a convergence of two respiratory diseases, we could have a very difficult time. What I'm saying is that I want to impress upon the American people in a way that is so clear there are things that we can do that would get the level down if we go into the fall and the winter, David, with the same situation that we're seeing now as Dr. Birx described where you have upticks of percent positive and then you have the inevitable surging of infection. You have said in order to get this outbreak under control we got to get to below 10,000 cases here in the U.S. By the fall. That's just a few weeks from now and you don't need me to tell you we're still seeing 50,000, 60,000, 70,000 cases a day. So is that goal even attainable in the U.S., 10,000 cases? I believe that if people and you're right, human nature, the way human nature is acting out there, it doesn't seem likely. But that doesn't mean it can't be done because where it has been done, David, it's worked. Dr. Fauci, you know whenever we get together here I always ask about testing. We're more than six months into the pandemic. People still waiting for hours to get tested then waiting for days for results. So when are we going to get rapid testing for all Americans? I know in the uk there are reports the government are set to roll out millions of 90-minute tests. President trump said this weekend we've also been able to send out many more of the tests which are five-minute to ten-minute result tests so where are these tests the president speaks of. Where do you get them? How widely available are they? I hope they'll be widely available soon but make sure people understand the difference is if we can have screening with those tests and leave the burden of the very accurate tests to be able to do the identification, isolation and contact tracing those are two separate tracks and two separate pathways and I think we can do both of them. But not widely available yet? No, it's not. The president's also talked about a vaccine by year's end, by November. He has said several points along the way. It's important for folks watching at home for you to give us the bottom line here. Even if we have a vaccine by year's inter, what are we looking at with efficacy? What should we be prepared for? I think that's part of the good news of thing, if you look at the now at least half a dozen vaccines we are directly involved with, a couple of them have already last week or a week and a half ago gone into a phase 3 trial which means you're determining if it is effective as well as additional safety. The initial preliminary work on that in phase 1 trial, David, have me be cautiously optimistic. I believe there is quite a good chance we will and that should take probably by the end of this calendar year with vaccine available as we go into 2021. As we go into next year. Yeah, just how effective, though, Dr. Fauci, do you think, you know, any one of these vaccines that are showing promise right now could be? What's -- what's the sort of reality we should be prepared for, though, when it comes to efficacy? The statistical analysis you'd like to prove a 00% to 650% effective. I'm hoping we can do even better than that. I'd like to see 70%, 75% or more. I have no interest pinning you against the president but I have to ask about messaging for the American people which is part of your job. The president said again in recent days over the weekend in fact he said that this pandemic is disappearing. It's going to disappear. You're the nation's top infectious disease expert in this pandemic. Are you comfortable with those words, this is disappearing? Well, there would have to be an addition to that we could get it to be under control if we do the things that we're talking about. It's not going to spontaneously by its own devices. We're going to have to act with public health effort. That's the way you get it. I believe it's achievable to get to a level that's quite controlled so that we can open up the country and get the economy back. But at 50,000, 60,000, 70,000 cases a day it's not disappearing at the moment. No, it's not. I mean, all you've got to do is look at the data, David, the virus is telling us what it can and will do if we don't confront it properly. Dr. Fauci with us here late this afternoon on what he believes we still must do as we head into the fall to try to get the pandemic under control and on universal Marvs in schools even though he believes that should be the way he also made it clear that decision is up to the states and local school districts.

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

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