Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute for Allergies and Infectious Diseases, speaks during a House Select subcommittee on the coronavirus crisis hearing in Washington, D.C.
Erin Scot | Pool | Reuters
Health officials have made an effort to convey the seriousness of Covid-19 to many Americans. President Trump's speedy recovery from the disease makes the challenge even more difficult, although everyone welcomes it, admitted Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergies and Infectious Diseases.
Trump's quick rebound from his infection is likely to underscore some people's false belief that the disease poses no significant health risks, Fauci said in an interview with STAT.
"We are all glad that the President of the United States did not draw any significant conclusions from this," said Fauci. "But … because he's such a visible figure, it reinforces some of those misconceptions people have that it's a benign disease and that nobody has anything to worry about."
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The wide range of clinical manifestations of the disease – some people have no symptoms while others have everything from flu-like symptoms to life-threatening and even fatal pneumonia and blood clots – makes it incredibly difficult to convey the dangerousness of Covid-19, he said.
"It's just a lot of understandable mixed signals that are either serious or not serious. It's fatal or non-fatal. For me that was the curse of getting a message across," he said.
"It's a problem that goes well beyond the president's illness."
Trump, who was at high risk of severe Covid-19 due to his age, weight, and gender, was hospitalized for four days earlier this month after testing positive for the SARS-CoV-2 virus, which Covid-19 causes. First lady Melania Trump also tested positive for the virus. The White House doctors described their case as milder than the President's. She didn't have to be hospitalized.
The president required supplemental oxygen at least twice before being helicoptered to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center on October 2. During the four days he was there, Trump was treated with an experimental antibody cocktail, the antiviral drug remdesivir. and the steroid dexamethasone.
He has since resumed work, holding a rally in Florida on Monday declaring himself immune to Covid-19. On Wednesday he drove to Iowa, a Covid-19 hotspot. He also tweeted that people shouldn't lose their lives on fear of the disease, claiming he feels better now than he did 20 years ago.
Trump continues to insist that the virus will go away soon, although daily infection numbers are rising in most parts of the country. To date, more than 7.8 million Americans have been infected and more than 215,000 have died in the pandemic.
Since the restrictions on movement were relaxed over the summer, many cases have occurred in young adults, a demographic that rarely dies from the disease. Fauci and others have struggled to find a way to convince people in this demographic that their behavior has a broader impact on communities.
"It's just something I've struggled with in messaging for a while, when you're trying to reach out to young people and tell them," Wear a mask, avoid the crowds. "And she say, "Well what's the difference if I get infected? The overwhelming chance is that I will not be seriously affected. So who cares? ”He said.
"And what they don't understand is that through infection they are spreading the outbreak. And by spreading the outbreak sooner or later, an at-risk person will become infected," Fauci said. "It's a big deal."