Mar 13, 2020
Transcript: Dr. Fauci of CDC Has Second Thoughts About Flying
Dr. Anthony Fauci of the CDC, a public health and coronavirus expert, appeared in a CNN/Facebook town hall in which he said he has second thoughts about traveling or flying on an airplane. Read the transcript of his comments here.
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Speaker 1: (00:00)
So my question is, if you think you are infected, you’re symptomatic; fever, cough, headache, and so you self quarantine, how soon before you can return to social situations? Is it safe to say that when you’re no longer symptomatic, then you’re no longer potentially shedding the virus?
Anderson Cooper: (00:23)
Dr. Fauci: (00:26)
No, that’s not correct at all. That’s a very good question. You can get infected, become symptomatic, resolve the symptoms, feel well and still shed virus. You can go back to your normal life when you have two consecutive tests for the Coronavirus that are negative, separated by 24 hours. That’s an excellent question. Just because you feel better or feel well, does not mean that you’re not shedding virus.
Anderson Cooper: (00:55)
And Dr. Fauci, how certain are scientists about this 15 day quarantine period? That, I mean, I’ve seen online some reports of cases in China where people may have had it for more than 15 days or been asymptomatic, but carried the virus and may be infecting people past 15 days.
Dr. Fauci: (01:19)
It’s pretty certain about that, Anderson. If you look now as we get more and more data, the median incubation period is five to 5.2 days, but the brackets in the range are pretty tight between two and 14 days. Whenever you have biology, there’s always going to be the out of the way exception. But for the most part, I think the operating definition of two to 14, with the median about five is accurate.
Anderson Cooper: (01:47)
Dr Fauci, we have a text question. This is from a Stephanie Beecher from Columbus, Georgia. She came to us online from her. She says, “What supplies should I get in case my community locks down from Coronavirus outbreak?”
Dr. Fauci: (02:02)
Well, people in their homes, even beyond Coronavirus should always, particularly people who require medication, should have some degree of stocking up of things in case there’s any kind of a disaster, a natural disaster, but specifically for Coronavirus, if you’re going to be confined to a place where you can’t have access to things, I think the standard things, bottled water, making sure that if you’re on medications, which I have to emphasize is one of the most important things. Make sure you have your medications that’ll take you through a period longer than what you usually do to get refills and things like that, but canned foods, water, particularly bottled water, that you have that available to you.
One of the things, Dr. Fauci, that kept coming up and we asked people to get extra medications, for example, people kept saying, look, my insurance doesn’t cover me getting extra medications. I can only get a certain number of days worth. Is that something that’s being addressed? Because it seems like a really practical concern for people who are trying to stock up.
Dr. Fauci: (03:11)
Yeah, that’s a great question, Sanjay. As a matter of fact, the other day I mistakenly asked for a refill because I got the date wrong and they said, I can’t give it to you. I wasn’t trying to stock up. I just made a mistake and they said the insurance wouldn’t pay for it. I think that’s something we really should look at. I mean we’re looking at relieving a lot of regulations and other things to make it easier for people to cope with this. I don’t want to be saying it absolutely should be done, but really somebody should look at that.
Anderson Cooper: (03:40)
Yeah. Because now I had the same situation. I ended up just paying cash for a two month supply. But I’m lucky that I was able to do that. It’d be great if the insurance companies gave a break on that. I’ve got another question. This one is from, let’s see, Stephanie Robinson in Newton, Massachusetts. She’s a professor at Harvard law school. Stephanie, what’s your question?
Stephanie Newton: (04:05)
Well I’m wondering if you can be a bit more specific about what constitutes a pre-existing health condition that would have someone to be at greater risk regarding the severity of course, and the possible fatality of COVID-19. For example, asthma, we know that we have 25 million people or more who are impacted by this disease. Is this the type of disease that we’re talking about which have caused more complications?
Dr. Fauci: (04:34)
Yeah, I mean asthma, obviously there are different degrees of asthma. I mean if someone, who whenever they get an upper respiratory infection really dramatically exacerbates their asthma, I think you would say that that person would be at a higher risk. The classical ones are things like chronic congestive heart failure, chronic pulmonary disease, diabetes, and anybody who really is on any immunosuppressive regimen be that for cancer chemotherapy, auto immune diseases, and also the elderly. Now, among the group, the elderly plus that is even more at risk. And if you look at the serious complications and ultimately the case fatality rate is very heavily weighted to those individuals.
Anderson Cooper: (05:19)
Dr. Fauci, You’ve worked a lot on HIV over the years. If somebody is HIV positive but undetectable and otherwise healthy, is that a factor that they should take into account, that it makes them at greater risk?
Dr. Fauci: (05:33)
I mean obviously, I’ve been taking care of thousands of patients with HIV over the years. Today, if somebody has a normal or as close to normal CD4 count, has got an undetectable viral load and antiretroviral therapies, they could possibly be at a slightly greater risk, but I don’t think it is anywhere near the risk of somebody who really has a compromised pulmonary function, compromised kidney function, diabetes and things like that.
Anderson Cooper: (06:00)
This is another question from England from Maryland, it was submitted online. She wants to know “If airplanes have such superior air filtration systems as reported and why the advisory for those aged 60 plus not to travel by plane and how come public transport is still okay.”
Dr. Fauci: (06:16)
That’s a good question. I think we need to look at every aspect of it. And as we say, the CDC has got some guidelines out about a low intermediate, high kinds of mitigation that you might do. I mean if it isn’t public transportation involved, again, we need to seriously look at it. Everything needs to be on the table, Anderson right now. This is a serious situation.
Okay. Can I just ask again? And again, I’d pointed out, you’re 79 years old. I hope that was okay that I told people your age. Are you traveling on planes? I mean, you’re a busy guy. Are you out there?
Dr. Fauci: (06:51)
I’m not out there, Anderson. I haven’t even been confronted with that possibility. I’ve been completely locked in and responding right here. I’ve canceled virtually everything that I was going to be doing purely because I’m literally locked into this 19 hours a day, anywhere from the department down to the White House, down to the kinds of response being in the media. So I’m not going anywhere for a number of reasons. And also many of the things I would have done have been canceled anyway.
Would you though, get on a plane?
Dr. Fauci: (07:24)
Would I get on a plane right now?
Dr. Fauci: (07:27)
It depends on what the issue is. I mean if I had to do something that was absolutely important. As you know, Sanjay, you know me. I’m a pretty healthy guy for 79. So yeah, I mean I, I might take a second thought. I wouldn’t do anything that’s unnecessary. I certainly wouldn’t get on a plane for a pleasure trip. It would have to be something that was really urgent. My job is the public health. If it had to do with the public health and I needed to do something for the public health, I might do that because I’m quite healthy. However, if it was just for fun. No way I would do it.
Anderson Cooper: (08:01)
We got a lot of questions, the questioner has. Emily Mitchell, Salt Lake City. Emily, what’s your question?
Emily Mitchell: (08:10)
Hi, Anderson. Thanks for having me. My question is regarding the mail. I’m a stay at home mom and I do a lot of online shopping, so I’m curious how long Coronavirus lives on surfaces and how we should be handling the mail?
Anderson Cooper: (08:22)
We’ve got a ton of these, Dr. Fauci. Mail, also money, currency.
Dr. Fauci: (08:27)
Yeah. There was a paper that was either submitted or already published from one of our people who looked at the detection of viable virus on a variety of substances; stainless steel, polypropylene, cardboard cloth and things like that. For the most part, the titration of it and the titer of it on surfaces is probably measured in a couple of hours. I would think something that goes to the mail, by time it gets to you, that’s it. And even if it is on there, would it be high enough of a concentration to actually be transmitted? Although it’s important, I don’t want to downplay the recommendations of wiping down the kinds of things that you could easily wipe down; doorknobs and screens and things like that. I think if you start thinking about money and mail and things like that, you could almost sort of immobilize yourself, which I don’t think is a good idea.
Anderson Cooper: (09:23)
Dr Fauci, we really appreciate your time. I know your work is extraordinary and we really appreciate you dedicating all your efforts and giving us some time tonight. Thank you.