- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 10, 2020

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the federal government’s top infectious diseases expert, on Wednesday said he wouldn’t be surprised if protesters who have congregated in mass demonstrations after the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis last month ultimately test positive for the coronavirus.

He said it was “certainly disturbing,” but “not surprising,” that members of the D.C. National Guard who were called to respond to some of the protests have reportedly tested positive for COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus.

Dr. Fauci said masks can help, but that physical separation is also important in combating the spread.

“When you get congregations like we saw with the demonstrations — as we have said … that’s taking a risk, and unfortunately what we’re seeing now is just an example of the kinds of things we were concerned about,” he said on ABC’s “Good Morning America.” “So I wouldn’t be surprised that members of the congregation that were there demonstrating could also be infected.”

The coronavirus pandemic has been knocked from the headlines in recent weeks as the protests and civil unrest has gripped the U.S. and the world, but some states have reported a recent spike in cases and hospitalizations as parts of the U.S. economy continue to open back up.

There are close to 2 million positive cases in the U.S. and more than 110,000 coronavirus-related deaths, according to a tracker from Johns Hopkins University. The U.S. population is more than 300 million.

Dr. Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, did say there could be a vaccine available either by the end of 2020 or early next year.

“That’s the thing that makes me feel confident that the process is really on track and that’s good news,” he said. “Again, in the context of never being able to guarantee success, things are clearly going in the right direction.”

Dr. Fauci also acknowledged the World Health Organization recently walking back a suggestion from one of its scientists that asymptomatic spread of the virus is rare.

“To make a statement to say that’s a rare event was not correct,” he said.

On the question of whether schools can safely open in the fall, Dr. Fauci said it could come down to a community-by-community basis.

“You don’t want to make a unidimensional decision about the entire country,” he said.

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