WASHINGTON (Sinclair Broadcast Group) — Top U.S. virologist Dr. Anthony Fauci said he does not favor a nationwide lockdown to control the spread of COVID-19.
In an interview Thursday with Sinclair's Jan Jeffcoat, Fauci said he "would like to not see us have to resort to a lockdown."
"You can get a lot done without necessarily locking down if you adhere to the fundamental principles that many of us, myself included, have been talking about for quite a while now," Fauci said.
Specifically, Fauci urged the "uniform wearing of masks," physical distancing, avoiding congregate settings, avoiding crowds, doing things outside instead of indoors and regularly washing hands. He noted that wearing a mask and physical distancing were the most effective means to prevent infection.
"If you do those things uniformly throughout the country, not in a scattered way—some do it, some don't—but as a nation, buckle down and respond, we can turn this around," Fauci explained.
The comments came after an adviser for president-elect Joe Biden's coronavirus task force recommended shutting down the economy for four to six weeks to drive down the number of cases while paying people for lost wages. Dr. Michael Osterholm, the director of the Center of Infectious Disease Research and Policy, has previously advocated more restrictive lockdowns.
Biden previously said he would institute a nationwide lockdown if it was deemed necessary by the scientists.
While Fauci did not take the possibility of a lockdown off the table, he advised that the "consequences of a lockdown from an economic as well as a...morale standpoint are very, very important."
In addition to millions of job losses during the pandemic, studies have shown COVID-19 lockdowns contributed to widespread negative mental health outcomes.
Talk of reimposing national or statewide restrictions have become more common as the United States enters a third wave of the virus outbreak. More than 144,000 new cases were reported Thursday and 40 states have documented a rising number of infections.
Despite a challenging period ahead, Fauci cited the availability of a vaccine as a positive development on the horizon. "That should be an incentive for us to buckle down and continue to double down on the public health measures until a vaccine comes," Fauci said.
By December, the first doses of a COVID-19 vaccine are expected to be available to individuals most at risk, such as frontline health care workers. The Pfizer vaccine may be 90% effective according to clinical studies and will be increasingly available in the first half of 2021.
"So the message is: hang on and keep doing the public health measures. Don't give up because help is really on the way," Fauci emphasized.