Following is the unofficial transcript of a CNBC interview with Shepard Smith and Dr. Anthony Fauci, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease Director, on “The News with Shepard Smith” (M-F, 7PM-8PM ET) today, Monday, October 12th. Following is a link to the video on CNBC.com.
All references must be sourced to CNBC’s “The News with Shepard Smith”.
SHEPARD SMITH: Let’s turn to Dr. Anthony Fauci a key member of The White House coronavirus Task Force, Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, and widely considered the top disease expert in America, sir. It’s an honor to have you here. Thank you.
DR. ANTHONY FAUCI: Thank you. Thank you for having me.
SMITH: Of course we heard Jane wells reporting there from Iowa and we’ve heard you if everybody wears a mask everything gets better but COVID has become as tribal sir as our politics some aware of them some won’t. If we don’t change and make masks mostly universal in America, what are we facing this fall and winter.
DR. FAUCI: I think we’re facing a whole lot of trouble. And the reason I say that I think you indicated in the lineup for the show, and that is we have a baseline of infections now that vary between 40 and 50,000 per day. That’s a bad place to be. When you’re going into the cooler weather of the fall and the colder weather of the winter. In addition, we would like to see the percent positivity be coming down, and unfortunately if you look at the states of the country, the Midwest the Northwest the states that you mentioned including Iowa. Instead of seeing it go in the other direction down.
We’re seeing an increase in test positivity. So you combine an increase in test positivity, which is always a predictor of more cases, and ultimately more hospitalizations, and ultimately more debt, and you combine that with a baseline of 40, 45, 50,000, new cases a day, as you go into a weather system, where you’re going to be spending more time indoors, rather than outdoors, which is a perfect setup for an acceleration of respiratory borne diseases that is unquestionably a problem. So that’s what the concern that I have. And that’s so many of my fellow public health officials have. We’re in a bad place now we’ve got to turn this around.
SMITH: Dr. Fauci you’ve been sidelined. Your briefings have been canceled your television appearances limited by the White House your words taken out of context in the campaign ad just the other day by the President. In hindsight Dr. have you put up with too much.
DR. FAUCI: Well I don’t know what you mean by put up with too much I mean obviously there are a lot of things that are going on that you would prefer did not happen like the ad, which put me in a political context which I spent my entire career, staying out of political context that’s not helpful, but I’m certainly not going to give up this is too important a problem I mean I have devoted my entire professional life to fighting infectious diseases. This is an outbreak of historic proportions, the likes of which we have not seen in 102 years there’s no chance that I’m going to give up on this and walk away from it no matter what happened
SMITH: Doctor you’re trained scientists have there been times when you, when you felt like I just can’t handle this. I know what’s right I’m telling people what’s right and then we’re getting other messages that make no sense.
DR. ANTHONY FAUCI: Well that’s a problem there’s no doubt about it you can’t run away from that but that doesn’t mean you give up, you’ve got to keep hammering out the correct public health message. If we do five fundamental things universal wearing of masks, maintaining physical distance, avoiding congregate settings or crowds as it were doing things more outdoors, as opposed to indoors and washing hands frequently, those simple things as simple as they sound can certainly turn around the spikes that we see and can prevent new spikes from occurring.
We know that that we know that because our experience has proven to us that that is the case, we just need to hunker down and do that.
SMITH: You have tried to fight this mask tribalism. In the past, what have you thought of any new ways to convince going forward because it sounds from all you’ve said it’s an urgent matter.
DR. FAUCI: Well, I can’t think of any new creative way to do that Shep. The only thing I could say is that we’ve got to keep trying to impress upon people and I have a great deal of faith in the American people and their ability to realize when we’re facing a significant problem. We’ve got to convince them that public health measures is not meaning to shut the government or the country down. We’re not talking about shutting anything down, we’re talking about using public health measures as a vehicle, or a gateway to keeping the country, open to keeping the economy going, it is not an obstacle. It’s actually an avenue to keeping the country open.
SMITH: But doctor
DR. ANTHONY FAUCI: If we can convince people of that we’re in good shape
SMITH: Science base restrictions make sense to you.
DR. FAUCI: Well yeah they do I mean but you don’t want to do it in such an offensive way that people, you know, pull back from it. You’ve got to understand that people do need to have some leeway to do the things that are important for their livelihood. That’s why I always stay away from we’re not talking about shutting down the country but we’re talking about prudent careful serious public health considerations, like wearing a mask like avoiding congregate settings. That’s not very difficult to do. And it should not interfere with getting the economy open again.
SMITH: The President tweeted about an hour and a half ago, Dr. Fauci, that Democratic governors should open their states right now. He’s singled out Andrew Cuomo of New York. In New York, three weeks ago the number of average cases per day over the week three weeks ago was 855. Last week it was 1,294. Well, three weeks ago was 855, two weeks ago it was 1,294, last week it was 1,400. Do our restrictions need to drop? Do we need to open up as the President suggests?
DR. ANTHONY FAUCI: Well you know, New York, after they were getting hit really, really badly months and months ago, they did very well in keeping the level of infection, the test positivity down. They’re trying to open up, which we’re all trying to do, and they’re seeing an uptick in cases. What they’ve got to do is to just, you know, hunker down as I say, which means, make sure people do the things that we’re talking about. If they do that, they don’t need to shut down completely. They need to gradually and carefully open up and I believe that’s what Governor Cuomo is trying to do.
SMITH: It is, but that’s not what the President’s telling him to do. And that’s confusing, not just for leaders, for everyone. How do you stay so focused and what do we need to be doing?
DR. FAUCI: Well, we need to be doing exactly what I just said.
SMITH: And not what the President said.
DR. ANTHONY FAUCI: Well, you know, Governor Cuomo is going to do what he’s going to do, because he has a lot of experience in that. I just think that we need to focus on the four or five fundamental things that we need to do. We got into trouble when we tried to open up the economy, and several states decided it was going to be an all or none phenomenon. Either they were going to lock down or open up completely. And that doesn’t work.
That’s the reason why the task force, of which I am a member, put together some guidelines where there was a gateway before you start decreasing, then phase one, phase two, and phase three.
A gradual way of carefully and prudently opening. This all or none phenomenon — either stay shut or you know, just throw caution to the wind, doesn’t work. And we’ve proven it doesn’t work. So that the prudent way and the careful way, we know will in fact get us open, and we’ll do it in a safe way.
SMITH: We’re all friends and family members. And we all have neighbors. How do we help those who don’t understand your message to somehow understand if you put on that mask, we’re all going to be so much healthier.
DR. ANTHONY FAUCI: I think we need to appear – appeal excuse me, appeal to the better angels, of which I know exists in our society. Because when you prevent yourself from getting infected, you do it, not only to help yourself, but you do it because you want to not propagate the outbreak. If you say to yourself, “I don’t care if I get infected. I’m a young person the chances of my getting seriously ill are very low. So, to heck with it I’m in a vacuum.
Let me get infected and enjoy whatever it is I want to join.” The problem with that is that by doing that, you are inadvertently – and I’ll use the word innocently – propagating the outbreak. Because although the infection may not hurt you, because you’re young and healthy, you will almost invariably infect someone else, who will infect someone else, who will then infect a vulnerable person.
That can be someone’s grandfather, that can be a woman who’s on chemotherapy for breast cancer, that could be an immune deficient child. So, we’ve got to stop thinking that we exist in a vacuum, only for ourselves. We’re all in this together. We’re all part of a society that’s either going to get hurt or that’s going to get helped by our actions. So, we want to be part of the solution, not part of the problem.
SMITH: Thank you for that wisdom. I’ve talked to a lot of mighty important doctors, Dr. Fauci, over just the last few days, and over the last week, and every single one of them agrees. We need, Dr. Fauci. Would you commit, even upon this President’s reelection, to staying with us through the next term?
DR. ANTHONY FAUCI: Oh, absolutely. I’m not gonna walk away from this outbreak no matter who’s the president.
SMITH: All I need to hear. Dr. Fauci, thank you so much. All the best to you and yours.
DR. FAUCI: Thank you very much, Shep. Thank you for having me on your show.