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This Is the #1 Coronavirus Mistake America's Making, Dr. Fauci Says

He's "obsessing over it every single day."

Six months into the COVID-19 pandemic, we've learned a lot about a virus no one had even heard of last Christmas. But judging by the record number of cases and deaths this summer, Americans still have a lot to learn—or at least put into practice—to reduce its spread. In an interview with Reuters on Aug. 5, Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and a key member of the White House coronavirus response team, spotlighted the biggest mistake the country is still making—with four other misperceptions and misbehaviors that prevent us from getting the pandemic under control. And to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these 21 Subtle Signs You've Already Had Coronavirus.


We're Not All In This Together

Group of party people - men and women - drinking beer in a pub or bar

In the interview, Fauci was asked why the United States wasn't doing as well at containing the virus as many of its international peers. "It's very complicated," he replied. "But one thing that appears to me that I'm … in some respects obsessing over it every single day—because that's what I do—is that we have somewhat of a disjointed approach to things. We have a big country that's really very, very different, different in demography, different in level of infection.

"We have a broad population that is the young people who can get infected and think that in fact, it doesn't have any impact on them when, in fact, they are part of the propagation of the outbreak. And yet it's very difficult to get a cohesive message when you have some people who do well and don't even get symptoms. And some people who die from this.

"So unless everybody is on the same wavelength and saying, 'We're all gonna do this the same way; we're all in this together' … like it or not, we see in our own country a great diversity of the way people approach things, a great difference in the seriousness in which they take it. If we had a uniformity, and everybody rode together in the same boat, we probably would do much better."

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We Politicized Face Masks

woman adjusting a trendy textile face mask behind her ear.

"Masks, for a while, became almost a political issue," said Fauci. "That's not good when you're in a pandemic and you want everybody to do the best public health things. Thank goodness that's changed, because now the message about masks is very clear. I'm very pleased now that we're seeing the vice president consistently wearing a mask, the president tweeting that you should be wearing a mask. That's a good thing. That's a step in the right direction."


We're Still Going to Large Gatherings

Fauci faulted "people congregating, so many without masks and in crowded places" for the surge of coronavirus cases this summer. He said two main scenarios were to blame: People who didn't follow government officials' advice to gather carefully, and instead decided, "I'm going to let it fly and do what I want," and some states that didn't go through careful, phased reopenings.

"There was a bit of both of those things, which led to the surges that have occurred," said Fauci. "Thank goodness, now that people are pulling back and tightening up, they're starting to turn around. We've got to make sure we get careful — that other states don't repeat what happened there. We really want to avoid any more of those surges related to not approaching the reopening process in as prudent a way as one should."


We Engage In All-Or-Nothing Thinking

closed sign

"When you try to open and get the economy back, you don't need to either shut down completely or let it rip," said Fauci. "I think the misperception among some is that either you're going to shut us down completely, or we're going to do whatever we want. No—that was the reason for the guidelines of opening up the country. If you do it prudently, you don't have to shut down."


We're Expecting to Get a Vaccine This Year

Nurse checking a vial of medicine.

"When I talk about a vaccine that is available, I'm talking about something that has been proven in a randomized placebo-controlled trial to be both safe and effective," said Fauci. Two companies went into a phase-three trial of potential vaccines on July 27. "You might likely get an indication if it works and if it's safe by the end of this calendar year," said Fauci. "I might add that I'm cautiously optimistic, though. You can never guarantee things with a vaccine."

Until a vaccine is widely available, do everything you can to prevent getting—and spreading—COVID-19: Mask, get tested if you think you have coronavirus, avoid crowds (and bars, and house parties), practice social distancing, only run essential errands, wash your hands regularly, disinfect frequently touched surfaces, and to get through this pandemic at your healthiest, don't miss these 37 Places You're Most Likely to Catch Coronavirus.

Michael Martin
Michael Martin is a New York City-based writer and editor whose health and lifestyle content has also been published on Beachbody and Openfit. A contributing writer for Eat This, Not That!, he has also been published in New York, Architectural Digest, Interview, and many others. Read more about Michael
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