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Dr. Fauci speaks with Facebook's Zuckerberg about rising COVID-19 cases, wearing a mask

The infectious-diseases expert stressed the importance of taking personal and social responsibility to help curb the spread of coronavirus.

Zuckerberg and Fauci
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg interviewed Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, about the spike in COVID-19 cases and how to curb the spread.
Screenshot by Abrar Al-Heeti/CNET
For the most up-to-date news and information about the coronavirus pandemic, visit the WHO and CDC websites.

As the US sees a surge in COVID-19 cases across the country, Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, reiterated the importance of wearing a mask, avoiding crowds and practicing social distancing to help curb the spread of the virus. Fauci spoke with Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg in a Thursday livestream about the importance of health and safety measures during the coronavirus pandemic

"We should be looking at public health measures as a vehicle or a gateway to opening the country again," Fauci said. "Not as the obstacle. If we do it in a measured way, I strongly believe we can turn this around in the southern states that are getting hit right now, and we can prevent it from happening in states that are still at that point of trying to open up."

Fauci compared the US's response to that of European countries, which saw significant decreases in new cases after shutting down almost fully across the board. He described the US as a "mixed bag," with some areas doing better than others, but pointed to the danger in some places that "jump over steps" in their phased reopening plans

"There really is no reason why we're having 40, 50, 60 thousand [cases], other than the fact that we're not doing something correctly," he said.

The infectious-diseases expert urged younger people in particular, who may erroneously feel invincible against coronavirus, to take greater personal responsibility in helping to curb its spread. Statistics have shown COVID-19 can still take a toll on younger people, and those people can unknowingly pass the virus onto others.  

"You can't think of yourself in a vacuum," he said. "If you get infected, you can innocently infect someone else, who might then infect someone else."

When it comes to reopening schools, Fauci said the default should be try to get kids back in the classroom, wherever possible. Otherwise, there could be negative consequences for kids who stay home all day, as well as parents who may have to adjust their work schedules accordingly. Of course, areas with high infection rates should consider keeping schools closed or modifying class structure in a way that keeps students safe, he said. That could include holding more classes outside, Fauci noted.

Over the next four to five months, Fauci said, we'll see vaccine candidates going into clinical trial. If all goes well, we could know by late fall whether there are candidates that are truly safe and effective. By the end of this year or early next, we may then have a vaccine candidate that's ready for distribution. 

"I'm cautiously optimistic," Fauci said.

Facebook, which has seen a surge in users amid the coronavirus pandemic as people look for ways to stay in touch digitally, has been ramping up its crackdown on COVID-19 misinformation. In March, it built an information center at the top of news feed to direct users to "authoritative information" about the virus. The social network said Wednesday it's launching a section in its COVID-19 Information Center called Facts about COVID-19, which will debunk common myths, such as that drinking bleach can prevent the virus. Starting this week, Facebook is also expanding reminders to wear face coverings to more countries. The company began showing these alerts on US users' Facebook and Instagram feeds earlier this month. 

"We need to take this a lot more seriously," Zuckerberg said in the livestream. "Our response needs to be guided by science."

The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health provider regarding any questions you may have about a medical condition or health objectives.