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Former CDC Director Says When We'll 'Get Our Lives Back'

“No one thing is going to stop it. It's here for a while, but we're in it together.”

Over the past 14 days, the United States has seen an 18% rise in coronavirus cases and a 30% rise in deaths, with the numbers rising fastest in states like Indiana, Kentucky, Mississippi, which join states like Texas, Arizona and Florida at becoming overwhelmed by COVID-19. On Sunday, former CDC director Tom Frieden talked with Chris Wallace on Fox News Sunday about what needs to be done to stop the virus, how soon we might see a vaccine, and when we'll get our "lives back."


On How to Slow Down the Spread

Female doctor with a patient who is complaining of chest pain during coronavirus epidemic.

"The virus clearly has the upper hand in the U.S. and what we're learning around the world is it doesn't go away unless you're an island and able to keep it out entirely…. It's really clear that there's a lot of spread in bars, probably a lot of spread in indoor dining and restaurants. So really we've got a choice. Do we want to close the bars and probably the indoor dining and give our kids a chance to learn in person in the fall or not? That's our choice. And in the Northeast, basically, we've made that choice cases remained low. And if it keeps low, we'll be able to start some form of in-person schooling in many communities in the fall."


On What Will End the Pandemic

Doctor show rapid laboratory COVID-19 test for diagnosis new Corona virus infection

"There's not going to be one solution to this pandemic, and we need to level with people. We don't have enough tests. So we have to prioritize them. We don't have enough protective equipment for healthcare workers. So we need to safely reuse and use more of the routinely reusable equipment. And if, and when a vaccine comes, we're going to have to face difficult decisions about who gets it first. How confident are we in it? Safety, how quickly will it be available? One of the things that has hampered us is this idea that one thing is going to stop this. No one thing is going to stop it. It's here for a while, but we're in it together. And if we unite in our effort against it, while keeping physically apart, we can get our lives and our livelihoods back."

Related: The CDC Predicts Deaths Will Soar in These 9 States


On All the Different State-By-State Directives


"One of the things that concerns me most is that we're not on the same page. My group looked at all 50 States, what's on their website. And most of the essential information isn't there. Every person in this country should be able to know very easily. What's the risk in my community and how well is my community doing, bringing that risk down? So I, and my family can be safer to do that….It's really important that we all get on the same page."


On When We'll Get a Vaccine

Doctor filling syringe with medication, closeup. Vaccination and immunization

"First we have to see if they work and there's encouraging news that some of them might. Second, we have to make sure that they're safe and we cannot cut any corners on safety. And third, we have to make sure we can get them into people's arms. And that means ensuring that there's trust….You might see announcements from companies that they can make a lot of it, but between knowing it works and knowing it could safe, effective, and available, that's going to be sometime next year in all likelihood. If we're fortunate."


On Whether It's Safe to Send Kids Back to School

Teacher and children with face mask back at school after covid-19 quarantine and lockdown.

"It's really a question of leveling with people being straight about what we know and what we don't know. One thing we know is that kids are way, way less likely to get seriously ill from COVID about a thousand times less likely than older adults. And in addition, the severity of COVID is fairly similar to the severity of a seasonal influenza for kids—but that's just one part of the equation. What about the staff? What about the teachers? What about people in the homes of kids, grandparents, and others, but then those kids could infect? So one thing the guideline says is if the risk in the community is low, you may be able to operate the schools safely. The bottom line is any community can open schools. The hard part is opening them and keeping them open and only a community that both controls COVID and opens schools carefully is going to be able to do that."


On Kids Spreading the Virus

"Kids appear to be somewhat less likely to get infected than adults. So there's different evidence on that from different parts of the world. And kids may be less likely to spread the virus to others, but there's very little evidence about that. And some of the science, some of the virus studies suggest that older kids, 10, 12, and up behave a lot like adults and their ability to spread the disease. We don't know for sure. What we do know is that if you have a lot of COVID in the community, you're going to have a lot of COVID in the school."


How to Avoid COVID-19

Woman cleaning and polishing the kitchen worktop with a spray detergent, housekeeping and hygiene

To stay healthy no matter where you live, wear your face mask, get tested if you think you have COVID-19, 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.

Alek Korab
Alek Korab is a Co-Founder and Managing Editor of the ETNT Health channel on Eat This, Not That! Read more about Alek
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