Fauci Dispatch

3 Fauci quotes to guide how to live during the fall coronavirus surge

Dr. Fauci on Thanksgiving, voting, and why we should focus on public health rather than lockdowns.

The fall coronavirus surge is upon us and we’re all about to make some hard choices, especially when a rise in case counts meets election day, Thanksgiving, and dropping temperatures.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious diseases, has some guidance as we near several critical dates this fall.

Here’s Fauci on how he plans to vote safely, the Thanksgiving holidays, and why, while we watch Europe roll out restrictions, we need to rethink our perception of lockdowns.

As a public service, Inverse is aggregating Fauci's comments regularly in the "Fauci Dispatch" series, as the White House has severely limited his visibility to the public.

  • Read the Fauci Dispatch from October 14, 2020 here
  • Read the Fauci Dispatch from October 7, 2020 here
  • Read the Fauci Dispatch from October 1, 2020 here
  • Read the Fauci Dispatch from September 23, 2020 here
  • Read the Fauci Dispatch from September 16, 2020 here
  • Read the Fauci Dispatch from September 2, 2020 here
  • Read the Fauci Dispatch from August 26, 2020 here
  • Read the Fauci Dispatch from August 19, 2020 here
  • Read the Fauci Dispatch from August 13, 2020 here
  • Read the Fauci Dispatch from August 5, 2020 here
  • Read the Fauci Dispatch from July 29, 2020 here
  • Read the Fauci Dispatch from July 22, 2020 here

How Fauci plans to vote – Speaking to 60 Minutes, Fauci said he plans to vote in person on election day.

“I like the atmosphere of going and voting,” he said.

The backdrop – Just because Fauci plans to vote in-person that doesn’t mean it’s right for everyone. He clarified that people in high-risk groups for Covid-19 (the elderly, or people with pre-existing conditions), can also just fill out an absentee ballot to “alleviate their anxiety.”

As CNN reported, there are a few factors that can help guide whether or not to vote in person. That could include the positivity rate in your area, and whether you have tested positive for Covid-19 — or someone else in your household has.

For most states, the pandemic itself is an acceptable excuse to request an absentee ballot and vote by mail (regardless of age or risk factors). However, there are some states that are won't let everyone use pandemic to request a ballot by mail. Tennessee, for instance, will only allow those sick, over 60, or have underlying medical conditions that put them at high risk for Covid-19, or people who care for high-risk Covid-19 groups, to use the "illness" excuse to request an absentee ballot.

Even if you do plan to vote in person, the most important thing you can do is have a backup plan, Hannah Klain, an equal justice works fellow at the Brennan Center for Justice, told CNN:

“Having a plan so that you don't end up having to choose between your health and your fundamental right to vote is the most critical thing that voters could do right now.”

Fauci said he plans to vote in-person, but emphasized that it's a personal decision guided by risk factors. LifestyleVisuals/ Getty Images.

Fauci on Thanksgiving – Speaking to CBS Evening News, Fauci said he agreed Thanksgiving gatherings could lead to a spike in coronavirus cases.

“You may have to bite the bullet and sacrifice that social gathering unless you’re pretty certain that the people you’re dealing with are not infected,” he said.

The backdrop – Fauci’s advice comes after comments made by CDC director Robert Redfield arguing that small gatherings are driving cases upward. Now, more than 34 states have positivity rates above five percent — indicating a future wave of cases and hospitalizations.

"In the public square, we're seeing a higher degree of vigilance and mitigation steps in many jurisdictions," Redfield said. "But what we're seeing as the increasing threat right now is actually acquisition of infection through small household gatherings.”

Mask-wearing and social distancing have allowed places to somewhat reopen. But Redfield’s comments suggest that these procedures aren’t being upheld at home, where mask-wearing and social distancing aren't inforced.

This means it’s up to individuals to insist upon gathering safely — avoiding poorly ventilated indoor spaces, wearing masks, keeping suitable distance, avoiding crowds, and meeting outside.

Fauci discussing Thanksgiving during the pandemic.

That's easier said than done, especially in the case of holiday traditions that involve cozy, intimate dinners with members of the extended family. Fauci indicated that if those family members have to travel from far away, and pass through airports, even a negative test before the trip isn’t a guarantee of no exposure when they arrive on your doorstep.

Fauci went on to say his Thanksgiving plans were going to look different this year. Reportedly, his children aren’t coming home, as they’d have to fly from three separate states.

Fauci on lockdowns – Fauci also said his goal is not to impose shutdowns unless deaths and hospitalizations became “really really bad," when speaking with 60 Minutes.

“Put 'shut down' away and say, 'We're going to use public health measures to help us safely get to where we wanna go,'" he said.

The backdrop – Fauci warned that the US is “fatigued” with restrictions, and he has backed away from the idea that the country will lockdown once again.

"We're going to use public health measures to help us safely get to where we wanna go."

Ultimately, Fauci is offering some spin on the truth about lockdowns – the fact is that there's evidence that lockdowns controlled the spread of the virus last winter, especially in China. His point is that we have to start accepting the medium-term restrictions, rather than flouting them until lockdowns become a certainty.

Facing spiraling case counts, Europe has tried to level restrictions to avoid full-blown lockdown. These measures include the closure of bars and restaurants in Belgium and new restrictions like curfews for restaurants in Italy.

The situation in Europe has prompted scientists like Devi Sridhar to argue a point similar to Fauci's: It’s time to think differently about the narrative of “lockdown and release.”

Though lockdowns work in the short term, in the long-run they “just press pause,” argues Sridhar. When people reemerge, the virus will spread again. What really matters is that we do everything we can to stop it from reaching that critical lockdown point — while we still have the chance.

And, if we get there anyway, we have to resist the urge to flout medium-level restrictions when they are imposed.

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