Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and member of the White House Coronavirus Task Force, spoke virtually at an event held by the Berkeley Forum on Thursday to discuss COVID-19 response.
The event was livestreamed on the Berkeley Forum’s Facebook page and drew almost 3,500 viewers, according to Berkeley News. During the event, Fauci predicted that a return to normalcy after the COVID-19 pandemic would happen slowly and might occur by the third or fourth quarter of 2021 if an effective vaccine were to be available soon.
Fauci also spoke about a broad range of topics including his work fighting the AIDS epidemic, the importance of combating disinformation and the role of masks in reducing the spread of COVID-19.
“I think, ultimately, we will get back to normality as we knew it before this, but it’s going to be a gradual process,” Fauci said during the event. “Restaurant numbers, theater attendance, spectators at sports, all of that will come back gradually but it will come back.”
Fauci said disinformation on social media and a tense political landscape have led to a divided front when addressing the virus. He added that the culture surrounding COVID-19 response has made it difficult to assemble a public health program.
Additionally, Fauci addressed the disproportionate impact that COVID-19 has had on communities of people of color. He pointed to a higher risk of exposure and comorbidity as reasons for the heightened effect on some minority groups.
“COVID-19 is shining a very bright light on the social determinants of health that have been there all along that we don’t pay a lot of attention to that is, in essence, killing minorities in the context of COVID-19,” Fauci said during the event.
Fauci recommended five actions to prevent surges of the virus: universal wearing of masks, social distancing, avoidance of crowds, preference for outside activities and frequent hand-washing.
While the event was open to all for viewing, questions were taken from UC Berkeley students, staff and faculty. In response to a question about universal health care, Fauci voiced his support and said it would be helpful in response to health care crises such as COVID-19.
“The fact is that we’ve got to make sure that we have a health care system where no one can go without necessary health care and quality health care,” Fauci said during the event. “We do need universal health care.”
Fauci spoke directly to younger audience members, including UC Berkeley students, when he emphasized the importance of following prevention tactics and rejecting the assumption that the virus will only hurt those in high-risk groups.
He added that wearing masks is vital for all, as symptoms aren’t always present.
“If you do get infected, even though you have no symptoms, the chances are that you’re going to infect someone else, who will then infect someone else, who will then infect a vulnerable person,” Fauci said. “Even though you think that, ‘It’s okay if I get infected,’ the fact is you’re propagating the outbreak.”