By Quentin Fottrell, MarketWatch
AFP via Getty Images
Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said that the novel coronavirus “might keep coming back” year after year. Speaking to the White House press corps on Wednesday, he said that the ultimate hope is a vaccine. That, Fauci added, may not be ready for a year to a year and a half, although other experts say even that timeline is optimistic .
“I was on the weekly conference call with the WHO-sponsored group of all the health leaders in the world who are dealing with this, and we all came to the agreement that we may have cycling with another season,” Fauci told the press conference. “We’ll be much better prepared. We’ll likely have interventions, but the ultimate game changer in this will be a vaccine.”
“If we get to the part of the curve where it goes down to essentially no new cases, no deaths for a period of time, I think it makes sense that you have to relax social distancing,” he added. “The one thing we hope to have in place, and I believe we will have in place, is a much more robust system to be able to identify someone who is infected, isolate them, and then do contact tracing.”
Earlier this week, Fauci said the White House coronavirus task force is giving “serious consideration” to broadening existing guidance on face masks, but said first priority must be given to health-care workers who are currently experiencing a shortage of masks. Currently, the Centers for Disease for Control and Prevention does not recommend that the public wear masks.
“The idea of getting a much more broad, community-wide use of masks outside of the health-care setting is under very active discussion at the task force,” Fauci, one of the country’s top infectious disease experts, told CNN /zigman2/quotes/203165245/composite T +0.49% . “The CDC group is looking at that very carefully.” But he said health-care workers need them and people must not take away from their supply.
Previous research has concluded that face masks help reduce contagion by reducing the amount of droplets sprayed into the air during flu season ; a Japanese-based study says this works when paired with vaccination, not an option in this case. This study says N95 medical-grade masks do help filter viruses that are larger than 0.1 micrometers. The coronavirus is 0.125 micrometers.