Key Words: As nation awaits transition of power, Fauci issues timely warning to his fellow scientists

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On Friday, President Donald Trump said that “time will tell’ if he stays in power, despite his Democratic rival Joe Biden winning both the popular and electoral vote in the U.S. presidential election. The president threatened to withhold a coronavirus vaccine, if/when it becomes available, from New York. Meanwhile, the U.S. racked up over 1 million new coronavirus infections in the last 10 days, and reached another grim milestone in cases on Friday.

“Whatever happens in the future, who knows which administration it will be — I guess time will tell, but I can tell you this administration will not go to a lockdown,” Trump said at the White House’s Rose Garden, speaking about the “Operation Warp Speed” public-private partnership that aims to accelerate development of a COVID-19 vaccine. He didn’t respond to reporters’ shouted questions about conceding the election.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, meanwhile, has a word for his industry colleagues. In a conversation with the American Medical Association, Fauci, 79, director of National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said physicians need to be careful about their public statements. “Stay completely apolitical,” he said this month. “Don’t get involved in any of the political aspects, and just focus on what your job is as a scientist and a physician. You do that, you’ll be fine.”

‘Don’t get involved in any of the political aspects, and just focus on what your job is as a scientist and a physician. You do that, you’ll be fine.’

— Anthony Fauci, director of National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases

On Monday, Pfizer PFE, +2.85%  and BioNTech BNTX, +4.30% said their vaccine candidate BNT162b2 is 90% effective in first interim analysis of Phase 3 study in participants without previous evidence of SARS-CoV-2 infection. Speaking before Pfizer and BioNTech released their vaccine news, Fauci said a vaccine with an efficacy of 70% to 75% would be going in the right direction.

While the U.S. makes up 4% of the world’s population, it has had 20% of all COVID-19 cases. As of Sunday, the U.S. had reported 10.9 million coronavirus cases and 245,933 COVID-related deaths, just ahead of India (8.8 million cases to date), according to Johns Hopkins University. To put that in context: The U.S. has a population of 328 million people versus 1.35 billion in India.

The U.S. daily tally of coronavirus infections topped 160,500 on Saturday after hitting a daily record of 184,000 on Friday. Hospitals in the Midwest and southern states including Texas and Florida continued to feel the strain. Hospitalizations are at their highest level since the pandemic began, up 30% since Nov. 1, according to the Covid Tracking Project.

Fauci has walked a fine line between educating the public about coronavirus and President Trump. Last month, Trump took aim at Fauci on a campaign call and on Twitter TWTR, +1.56%, calling him a “disaster” in a campaign call and bemoaning his media appearances, but the veteran immunologist told Americans to follow the scientific data, and to stay out of the political fray.

On Twitter, the president, 74, also criticized Fauci’s media appearances urging people to wear masks and socially distance, and appeared to be rankled by the doctor’s media exposure: “Dr.Tony Fauci says we don’t allow him to do television, and yet I saw him last night on @60Minutes, and he seems to get more airtime than anybody since the late, great, Bob Hope.”

Fauci, meanwhile, has given the American public the same advice he gave fellow scientists over the weekend. “My advice to young people is — unless you want to be a politician — stay away from the politics and let science and good data guide your policy.” Fauci added, “We’re going through a time that’s disturbingly anti-science in certain segments of our society.”

On Monday, Fauci appeared on CNN and said that a vaccine could be administered by the end of this year. He called the announcement by Pfizer and BioNTech “good news” and “a really big deal.” He told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer, “We may have doses that we are able to give to people by the end of November, the beginning of December, probably well into December.”

Speaking to AMA Executive Vice President and CEO James Madara last weekend, Fauci also said there have been significant improvements in treatment regarding when it’s best to put people on ventilators and how much oxygen to administer during intubation. “We just get better at treating the disease. We know what works, what doesn’t work,” he said.

“We know that dexamethasone clearly diminishes the death rate in people requiring mechanical ventilation and/or people who require high-flow oxygen,” Fauci said during the interview on Saturday. “We have remdesivir for hospitalized patients who have lung involvement.” Using anticoagulants for some patients is also increasingly common for COVID-19 treatment, he said.

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