To learn more about the coronavirus pandemic, which has caused more than 23,000 deaths worldwide and has led sports leagues to stop playing, Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry consulted directly with a trusted source.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, appeared on Curry’s Instagram account on Thursday to field questions from Curry about COVID-19.
Below are the highlights of the 28-minute interview, edited for space and clarity.
Q: How is COVID-19 different from the flu?
Fauci: “It’s similar in some respects in that it is a respiratory illness that is transmitted by the respiratory route. It gives a degree of pathology that is mostly pneumonia. The reason it’s different is that it’s very, very much more transmissible than flu. More importantly, it’s significantly more serious.”
Can young people get sick from COVID-19?
Fauci: “You can get sick. But you don’t get into serious trouble if you are young. It’s very heavily weighted toward the elderly with those underlying conditions, heart disease, lung disease, kidney disease. Those are the people with a higher degree of mortality. … But we’re starting to see some people that are younger, healthy and vigorous who don’t have any underlying conditions who are getting seriously ill. It’s still a very, very small minority. But it doesn’t mean young people like yourself should say ‘I’m completely exempt from any risk of getting seriously ill.
“That’s the reason when we talk about being careful of physical distancing and doing social separation, it means not only for the elderly. But the young people have to do it for two reasons. One, you need to protect yourself because you’re not completely exempt from serious illness. Two, you could become the factor of carrying the infection where you feel well and inadvertently pass it on to your grandfather or grandmother.”
What needs to happen for there be large gatherings and sporting events again?
Fauci: “We can start thinking about getting back some degree of normality when the country as a whole is turning that corner and start coming down. Then you can pinpoint cases much more easily than getting overwhelmed by cases.”
How many tests are available?
Fauci: “Several weeks ago, we were not in a place where we needed to be or wanted to be. We did not have as much accessibility of testing as we have and will have going forward. Right now, there are literally hundreds of thousands of tests that are out there now mostly because we got the private sector involved.”
Curry asked Fauci if he had done the right thing to get tested for the coronavirus after the Warriors diagnosed him with the flu shortly before the NBA suspended its season 2½ weeks ago. Curry’s test came back negative.
Fauci: “You did the right thing. Someone who gets flu-like symptoms or aches or a bit of a cough, the first thing you do is stay at home. Don’t go to an emergency room because you might be infecting others. Get on the phone with a physician, nurse or healthcare provider and get instructions on what to do. If available, you can get a test. The critical issue is don’t flood the emergency rooms. Stay at home. If you are seriously ill, you have to go quickly there. But if you have just aches, pains and a fever, stay where you are and contact your physician.
Can you get COVID-19 a second time?
Fauci: “We haven’t done the specific testing to determine that. But if this acts like every virus similar to it that we know, the chances are overwhelming that if you get infected and recover from the infection, you are not going to get infected with the same virus.”
Does warmer weather diminish the ability for the virus to spread?
Fauci: “As the weather gets warmer, viruses tend to do poorly in warm, moist weather and do quite well in cold, dry weather. … The only issue is we don’t know whether this is going to happen with this virus. This is the first time we’ve dealt with this virus. So it’s not an unreasonable assumption to think it’s going to go down. But you don’t want to count on it.”
What’s the risk of lifting those social distancing, shelter in place or stay at home initiatives too early and finding the balance of not shutting down the entire economy?
Fauci: “It is not an all-or-none process. When you’re locking down the way Governor (Gavin) Newsom did in California and Governor (Andrew) Cuomo is doing in New York City, that is the extreme. That is the hammer on something. Even if you lessen those restrictions, everybody until this is over should practice some degree of physical distancing and care. Avoid big crowds, wash your hands a lot and be careful. You can do that and get back to somewhat of a normal life. There is a big difference between the extreme of locking a city down, opening it up a bit and being more careful than you normally would be. … You treat New York City a little bit differently than what you treat Nebraska.”
Why is it challenging to get tests?
Fauci: “There should be nothing now that is inhibiting it. But originally the system, the way it was set up was not geared toward the massive capability of instantaneously safely getting a test and getting it done. … Right now, the system has changed predominantly because it has been handed over to the commercial firms that know how to do it.”
What’s the timeline for developing a vaccine?
FaucI: “We have started the development of the vaccine faster than ever in the history of any virus from the time it was discovered and the time we actually made it and put it into a trial. But when you test a vaccine, there are multiple phases. The first thing you got to do is make sure it’s safe. We started that a couple of weeks ago. Then you have a Phase 2 or Phase 3 trial to see if it works. That’s the thing that is going to take an additional eight to 12 months or so. You add up the three or four months of the Phase 1, seven or eight months of Phase 2, you have a year or year and half. We hope by the time we get to next winter that we have something that works.”
Will the vaccine be ready if COVID-19 comes back next winter?
Fauci: “I think if we do it right, it’ll happen this way. We’ll get enough experience that when it does come back, we’ll be able to immediately identify, isolate and contact the trace. If you do that effectively, you don’t have an outbreak. You contain it at a very low level. That would mean we won’t have to lock down again.”