Facebook's Zuckerberg interviews Dr. Fauci: 5 takeaways from the coronavirus chat

The social network has been trying to direct people to more accurate information about the virus.

Queenie Wong Former Senior Writer
Queenie Wong was a senior writer for CNET News, focusing on social media companies including Facebook's parent company Meta, Twitter and TikTok. Before joining CNET, she worked for The Mercury News in San Jose and the Statesman Journal in Salem, Oregon. A native of Southern California, she took her first journalism class in middle school.
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Queenie Wong
3 min read

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg interviews Dr. Anthony Fauci in a live broadcast streamed on the social network on Thursday.

Screenshot by Queenie Wong/CNET

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg interviewed Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation's leading expert on infectious diseases, on Thursday about the outbreak of the novel coronavirus.

Zuckerberg asked Fauci, who heads the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, a variety of questions from how the virus can impact younger people to the development of a vaccine. 

The roughly 40-minute interview was live streamed on Facebook on the same day that the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative -- a philanthropic organization run by Zuckerberg and his wife, Dr. Priscilla Chan -- said it was partnering with California to increase coronavirus testing capacity in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Facebook has also been rolling out a new hub for coronavirus information that will appear at the top of users' News Feeds. The feature could help direct people to more accurate information as conspiracy theories and hoaxes about the virus continue to spread. 

Here are five takeaways from the interview:

1. Young people should take the coronavirus outbreak seriously

Young people are unlikely as a group to get seriously sickened by COVID-19 (the respiratory illness caused by the virus), but they can still get infected by the virus and possibly spread it to the elderly and others who are at greater risk of dying from the disease.

"Even though there may be minimal symptoms or no symptoms at all, they become the vector to infecting those people who are vulnerable," Fauci told Zuckerberg.

The coronavirus has sickened more than 234,000 people globally and at least 9,800 people have died. Symptoms of the coronavirus disease include fever, cough and shortness of breath.

2. Orders urging people to stay at home will likely be in effect for more than two weeks

Officials in several cities, including in the Bay Area, have asked residents to "shelter in place" and not go outside unless it's for "essential" activities such as grocery shopping or exercising.

The White House on Monday issued guidelines to help slow the spread of the coronavirus, urging Americans to avoid social gatherings and eating at restaurants for 15 days.

"That does not mean it's only going to be 15 days," Fauci said. "That means at the end of 15 days, we'll reevaluate and see if what we've done has had any noticeable impact and is it worth going on."

Based on what's happened in other countries, he would project that these shelter in place orders will be in effect for more than 15 days.

3. Ramping up testing will involve help from the private sector

As the spread of the coronavirus increases, the US government has been teaming up with private companies to keep up with the demand for more coronavirus testing. Verily, the life sciences arm of Google parent Alphabet, created a site to advise consumers about if and where they should get tested.

The Chan Zuckerberg Initiative said Thursday it's working with UCSF to support at least 1,000 tests a day in the coming days.

"Looking forward, we will soon maybe already start to see an escalation of the capability of not only getting testers out there, but to be able to implement them," Fauci said.

4. It's going to take at least a year or a year and a half to develop a safe vaccine

Fauci said developing a vaccine involves many phases of clinical testing, which is why it's going to take a year to a year and a half to determine it's safe to use.

"What happened is that as soon as we got the sequence of the virus from the Chinese, we pulled it out of the public database and stuck the gene into a vaccine platform," Fauci said. That experimental vaccine was then injected into a volunteer as part of the clinical trial. 

"If you vaccinate someone and they make an antibody response and then they get exposed and infected, does the response that you induce actually enhance the infection and make it worse?," Fauci said. "And the only way you'll know that is if you do an extended study."

5. If you're infected by the novel coronavirus, you probably won't get reinfected

There isn't a formal test that proves you won't get reinfected, but it doesn't seem like the immune system's response to this virus is any different than any other virus.

"I would project that once you're infected and you recover that if you get exposed to this exact virus you will not get reinfected," Fauci said.

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.