AUSTIN (NewsNation) — Nearly 13,000 people tuned into Matthew McConaughey’s Instagram Live channel on Thursday to watch a one-on-one interview with Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.
Currently, the United States has the worst outbreak in the world with more than 5 million infections and at least 166,000 deaths as of Thursday, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. On Wednesday, the U.S. reported more than 1,500 deaths caused by COVID-19, marking the deadliest day for the country since the end of May.
During the live interview, the Oscar-winning actor and White House coronavirus advisor focused on facts versus fiction about COVID-19. The question and answer forum included antibody testing, long term effects of coronavirus, effectiveness of masks, outdoor and indoor dining, spread of the virus, sporting events and when a vaccine could become available.
McConaughey asked Fauci to clarify why young people are not getting as sick as adults who contract coronavirus. Fauci explained how the coronavirus is in a class of four viruses, that make up 30 percent of all common colds you would get as a child.
“It is conceivable that the children who likely more recently had these coronavirus infections that were benign, they have residual immunity that is protecting them, not from getting infected but protecting them from getting sick,” Fauci said. “That’s one hypothesis that is quite reasonable.”
Fauci went on to clarify misconceptions of the virus including how letting “everyone get infected” would not help mortality rates.
“If you look at the United States of America with our epidemic of obesity as it were, with the number of people with hypertension, with the number of people with diabetes. If everyone got infected (with COVID-19) the death toll would be enormous and totally unacceptable,” Fauci said. “And that’s the reason why we are against saying let it fly, let everyone get infected and we will be fine, that’s a bad idea.”
McConaughey questioned the disease expert why Asia’s numbers and the rest of the world slowed down the spread of COVID-19 while “the U.S. seems to be far behind.” Fauci said when Asia shut down they closed down everything and the number of cases dropped to a very low baseline.
“When we (U.S.) shutdown, when you look at the tracking number of people who didn’t go to their jobs, the number of visits to grocery stores and public places, we shut down but it was never on the level that Asian countries did,” Fauci said. “So our baseline instead of going all the way down we plateaued at 20,000 cases a day which is totally unacceptable.”
Fauci said the problem is the country did not open up in a uniform way so there was an uptick in COVID-19 numbers across the country, peaking at 50,000 a day.
When it comes to developing an effective vaccine for wide distribution, Fauci said it could be here by the end of this year or likely the beginning of 2021.
“A vaccine does mean immunity but it’s not perfect, in fact there are no vaccines that are 100 percent perfect,” said Fauci. “If we get 50-70 percent effective with this (COVID-19) vaccine I will be very pleased.”
McConaughey also injected some internet conspiracy theories into the conversation, asking Fauci if he has millions of dollars invested in a vaccine. Fauci responded with a chuckle and then said he has “zero” invested as a government worker with a government salary.
In terms of America’s initial response to the spread of COVID-19, Fauci agreed with McConaughey’s opinion that looking back we “messed up.”
“Absolutely we could’ve always done better for sure,” said Fauci. “But you are right there were certain missteps early on with the testing issue which we finally corrected. There were some things we did really well, there are some things we moved well, we moved appropriately. The thing that is of concern back then to me, now and unless we correct it in the future, we need pull together in a uniformed way.”
He went on to say with the dynamics of pandemic, if you have one weak link in the chain, “you don’t win the game, it just will not work.”
Fauci said “one that’s our handicap is being independent people” in this “divisive year.” He said public health should be a priority to help the country get back to normal life.
“The public health should be a mechanism to open the country, some people think it’s an obstacle,” said Fauci. “That’s a complete misinterpretation, you should use public health measures to help you to safely open up the country.”
McConaughey was quick to point out how COVID-19 has been highly politicized, including the wearing of masks.
“If you wear a mask you are on the left, if you quarantine you are on the left. If you want to go to work, if you don’t wear a mask you are on the right,” McConaughey said adding. “So many people have become disillusioned with our leadership but also so many people have fervently clanged to the fringes to the extremes of the right and left which has caused a further divide and a lack of unity.”
McConaughey says the country seems to be “swirling in limbo right now” and asked Fauci how we can all collectively turn the page.
“We gotta do it by realizing that we are all in this together and unless we do it together we are not going to get this under control,” said Fauci.
Since the beginning of the pandemic there has been conflicting data and recommendations from the scientific community. Fauci says it’s confusing to understand because it’s an evolving situation.
“What happens is as things evolve, you get more data and more evidence and what you need to do is be more flexible and humble enough to say you know based on the data I have now what I was doing back then wasn’t perfect I need to course correct,” said Dr. Fauci. “That’s the beauty of science it’s course correcting.”
Fauci also recommends being out doors is better than indoors, wearing masks and staying at least six feet apart helps prevent the virus spread and says most contact sports have the potential to be “super spreader events.”
McConaughey ended the interview with Fauci’s final thoughts about the resilience of the U.S. throughout history.
“Our country has been through some very very difficult situations. We’ve been through a depression, we have been through a world war. I am old enough to have been a baby during World War II but I remember how the country absolutely pulled together, ” said Fauci. “We pulled together after 9/11 this is the equivalent to that, we go to pull together”