Fauci strikes hopeful tone in speech to Missouri university

January 7, 2021 GMT

O’FALLON, Mo. (AP) — The coronavirus pandemic will get worse before it gets better, but vaccinations “will be the real gateway” to a return to normal, Dr. Anthony Fauci told a group of Missouri scientists and students Thursday.

Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, spoke remotely during the Washington University School of Medicine’s “Grand Rounds” forum. The live lecture allows experts to discuss clinical problems and new research. The event was accessible to the public via YouTube.

Fauci said the nation is seeing up to 300,000 new coronavirus cases, up to 3,000 new deaths and record hospitalizations every day, calling the numbers “really stunning.”

“We expect it to get a bit worse as we get into the middle and end weeks of January” because cases will likely surge from holiday gatherings, Fauci said.

“On the other side of the coin, there is light at the end of the tunnel with regard to vaccinations,” Fauci said. He lauded the coronavirus vaccines as highly successful and very safe.

The challenge, he said, “is to get the vaccine out and implemented in an efficient way so we can get the overwhelming majority of our population vaccinated within a several-month period, which will be the real gateway to the end of this terrible outbreak and would get us back to normal.

“So there’s very disturbing news, and there’s some promising news,” Fauci said.

Combating the spread of the virus was made more difficult by “a mistrust of science” and mixed messaging from political leaders that caused public measures to take on “an air of political ideology,” Fauci said.

“That is so destructive to the trust that’s needed when you want to mobilize a country,” Fauci said.

Missouri’s health department on Wednesday reported 3,983 new confirmed cases of the virus, and 24 new deaths. The state has reported 412,426 cases and 5,882 deaths since the onset of the pandemic.