Government response pivoting to ending lockdowns after having to ‘shut down the planet’

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told Yahoo Finance on Tuesday he continues to work with the White House coronavirus task force to focus on states reopening— including a meeting Tuesday with Vice President Mike Pence.

The nation’s top infectious disease expert is not yet breathing a sight of relief, but feels the U.S. has improved its response to the outbreak as states relax restrictions on public life — even as some concerns remain about regions seeing a new flare up of COVID-19 cases.

“Things that [officials] are concentrating on right now are how do we safely reopen,” he said. How do we get the cities, these towns, these counties to try to get sort some sort of normality to get the economy back. That’s most of what’s being discussed,” Fauci added.

On the topic of a vaccine, and whether or not one will be ready this year, Fauci said it is likely we will at least know if any work by the end of the year.

Yet distribution to the general public is unlikely until next year, despite rising expectations of a more immediate breakthrough.

“My prediction would be that we would have more than one candidate that ultimately gets to the point of proven to be safe and effective,” Fauci told Yahoo Finance.

A crowded field of over 100 companies are currently testing candidates, but only a handful have the most promise. However, there are fears that some countries may prioritize their own citizens if a treatment is found — an outcome Fauci downplayed.

“So I don’t think we’re going to have a situation where one country or one organization has a vaccine that they are not going to share with others,” he said.

There are over 1.9 million coronavirus cases in the U.S. (Graphic: David Foster/Yahoo Finance)

‘Essentially shut down the planet’

All told, responding to the global pandemic has been a mammoth task, and the decision to shutdown the economy saved a number of lives.

“We’ve never been in a situation like that ever in history, where we had to essentially shut down the planet. I mean, if you look at the globe, and the more than 200-plus countries that have been afflicted, almost all of them had that shut down. That is unprecedented right now,” he said.

But it isn’t forever, as parts have begun to reopen, “as we march forward to some sort of normalization and reopening not only our country, but the rest of the world.”

Fauci also addressed the ongoing protests, which have become a public health concern as protestors gather in large groups without masks, or appropriate distance between bodies. Some officials have encouraged participants to get tested.

As long as people are wearing masks, even while chanting, that should help lower the spread, according to Fauci.

“What we say if you are going to demonstrate in a non violent way, a peaceful demonstration, please be sure to wear a mask all the time. To say keep physical distance is a non-starter because the very nature of a demonstration, you see people in crowds. But wear a mask,” he said.

Anjalee Khemlani is a reporter at Yahoo Finance. Follow her on Twitter: @AnjKhem

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