When it comes to infectious diseases, Dr. Anthony Fauci has seen more than any of us.
The 79-year-old immunologist took the reins at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases 36 years ago, and has researched diseases like AIDS, tuberculosis, malaria, and Zika. Hell, he even suited up at age 74, in a full protective suit, to treat an Ebola patient.
Dr. Fauci explained he has three adult daughters who live around the country. This year, the Fauci family decided to celebrate Thanksgiving remotely, as opposed to gathering in one space, particularly because Fauci is older and more vulnerable to COVID-19. In Fauci’s words:
What we’re going to do is we’re going to have a meal with my wife and I, and we’re going to Zoom in and spend some time back and forth with the girls. I don’t like it that way, but I think they’re making a prudent decision in trying to protect their father, and I’m proud of them for that.
In short, the marvels of the internet allow most of us to spend Thanksgiving with one another, but without spreading disease or mixing households. It’s a selfless, patriotic act, considering that those who do need to be hospitalized — like President Donald Trump — now require the attention of overtaxed nurses and doctors who are facing a surge in patients. If you get seriously sick, will there even be a bed available for you?
“The wave hasn’t even crashed down on us yet,” Eli Perencevich, an infectious-disease doctor at the University of Iowa, recently told The Atlantic. “It keeps rising and rising, and we’re all running on fear. The health-care system in Iowa is going to collapse, no question.”
Throwback to 5 years ago when Tony Fauci, at 74 yo, was suiting up to treat an Ebola patient himself because he “wanted to show his staff that he wouldn’t ask them to do anything he wouldn’t do himself”. This is what leadership looks like. https://t.co/QctW672ykC pic.twitter.com/71j5qNWOsP
— Adam Phillippy (@aphillippy) July 15, 2020
Even if you like your own odds of escaping death or disability, consider the people you are connected to who may be vulnerable. I do my best to stay safe so I can keep others safe.
— Caitlin Rivers, PhD (@cmyeaton) November 18, 2020
There is, however, good news ahead. There are already two vaccine candidates that, in clinical trials, have shown to be remarkably effective in preventing COVID-19 symptoms. The first vaccinations in the U.S. could start next month, said Dr. Fauci, though it will take many months to provide vaccines to most of the population. The worst of the pandemic may end in 2021, but social distancing will likely continue in varying degrees as people are incrementally vaccinated, and importantly, researchers observe how the disease plays out in the real world.
“Everybody is excited about the light at the end of the tunnel of this pandemic,” Dr. Graham Snyder, the medical director for infection prevention and hospital epidemiology at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, told Mashable.