Fauci Warns Americans To Skip Super Bowl Parties This Year

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, speaks during a Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee hearing on June 30, 2020 in Washington, DC. Al Drago - Pool/Getty Images/AFP
Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, speaks during a Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee hearing on June 30, 2020 in Washington, DC. Al Drago – Pool/Getty Images/AFP

 

 

Americans need to forget about snacks and drinks and inviting friends over for the big game because Covid-19 could be the unwelcome guest Sunday at Super Bowl parties.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, chief medical advisor to US President Joe Biden, warned Wednesday there could be a spike in Covid-19 cases nationwide if people stage or attend traditional Super Bowl bashes next weekend.

“As much fun as it is to get together for a big Super Bowl party, now is not the time to do that,” Fauci said in an appearance on NBC’s Today show.

About 450,000 people have died in the United States of the deadly virus, which began shutting down US events last March, about six weeks after the 2020 Super Bowl.

This year’s NFL championship game, Super Bowl 55, will send the defending champion Kansas City Chiefs against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on the Bucs’ home field in Tampa, Florida.

“Watch the game and enjoy it, but do it with your family or the people in your household,” Fauci said in TV appearances. “This time around, just lay low and cool it.”

Major US parties are an annual habit around the Super Bowl, with friends and families gathering to socialize and watch the telecast for unique advertisements as well as who wins the NFL championship.

“Every time we have something like this, there’s always a spike, be it a holiday, Christmas, New Year’s, Thanksgiving,” Fauci said on NBC.

“Super Bowl is a big deal in the United States. Enjoy the game. Watch it on television. But do it with the immediate members of your family, the people in your household.”

A crowd of about 25,000 at the Super Bowl will include 7,500 vaccinated health care workers, but Fauci doesn’t see the NFL championship showdown at Raymond James Stadium as a super-spreader event.

“I believe that they are trying to keep people separated enough in the stands, wearing masks, so they don’t have that proximity,” Fauci said on ABC’s Good Morning America.

Fauci Accepts Biden’s Request To Be Chief Medical Adviser, Stay On COVID-19 Team

A combo image showing Anthony Fauci and Joe Biden

 

US President-elect Joe Biden on Thursday said he had asked the government’s top infectious disease specialist Anthony Fauci to remain in his post and join his COVID-19 team after he takes office.

“I asked him to stay on in the exact same role he’s had for the past several presidents,” Biden said in an interview with CNN, referring to the expert who outgoing President Donald Trump had suggested he would fire after the election.

“And I asked him to be chief medical adviser for me as well and to be part of the COVID team.”

On Friday, Fauci told NBC’s “Today” he accepted the position.

“Oh, absolutely. I said yes right on the spot,” Fauci said when asked if he’d taken the role.

Biden also said that on his first day in office he would ask Americans to wear masks for 100 days to help reduce transmission of the virus that is again surging in a country with the world’s highest number of deaths and infections.

“I’m going to ask the public for 100 days to mask. Just 100 days to mask — not forever,” Biden said in the interview excerpts, broadcast ahead of the full interview later Thursday.

Biden’s approach to the virus stands in sharp contrast to that of Trump, who has downplayed its seriousness, mocked mask-wearing and called for reopenings despite having been hospitalized with Covid-19 himself.

The president-elect said he planned to use government authority where possible to issue a “standing order” for masking in federal buildings as well as for interstate transportation, including on airplanes and buses.

To build trust in vaccines after they are approved, Biden said he was willing to be vaccinated in public.

The United States has surpassed 14 million Covid-19 infections, with more than 275,000 deaths.

US Could Hit 100,000 New COVID-19 Cases A Day – Fauci

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, speaks during a Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee hearing on June 30, 2020 in Washington, DC.  Al Drago - Pool/Getty Images/AFP
Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, speaks during a Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee hearing on June 30, 2020, in Washington, DC. Al Drago – Pool/Getty Images/AFP

 

A top US health expert warned Congress on Tuesday that new coronavirus cases could more than double to 100,000 per day if authorities and the public fail to take steps to suppress the pandemic.

Infectious disease expert Anthony Fauci, a leading member of President Donald Trump’s coronavirus task force, said the United States was headed in the “wrong direction” on the pandemic and demanded that Americans wear masks and avoid crowds after lax behavior propelled new outbreaks.

“I’m very concerned and I’m not satisfied with what’s going on, because we’re going in the wrong direction,” he testified to a Senate panel.

Alarming spikes in new cases in southern hotspots Texas and Florida are driving the daily national total of new cases to over 40,000 per day, and they need to be tamped down quickly to avoid dangerous surges elsewhere in the country, Fauci stressed.

“Clearly we are not in total control right now,” he said adding: “I would not be surprised if it goes up to 100,000 a day if this does not turn around.”

The dire messaging reinforced concerns about the US ability to rein in a pandemic that has claimed some 126,000 American lives.

The testimony comes as the United States, the world’s hardest-hit nation, with more than 2.6 million infections, was left off the list of 15 countries to which the European Union will open its borders from July 1, and as it grapples with how to assure a safe reopening of schools in the coming months.

Fauci said he believed some states are “skipping over some of the checkpoints” that assure safe reopenings of business and public spaces.

And he also offered a blunt message to the nation’s young adults who have engaged in “dangerous” behavior including congregating in bars, not wearing masks, and not following social distancing guidelines.

“I think we need to emphasize the responsibility that we have, both as individuals and as part of a societal effort to end the epidemic, that we all have to play a part in that,” Fauci said.

Trump told ‘wear a mask’

The head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Robert Redfield, sounded the alarm about rising trajectories in several jurisdictions, including COVID-19 hospitalizations rising in 12 states, and said it was “critical” that every American takes personal responsibility and “embraces the use of face coverings.”

But the chairman of the panel, Republican Senator Lamar Alexander, also pointed the finger at Trump, saying the president had the power to end politicization of mask-wearing that suggests “if you’re for Trump, you don’t wear a mask. If you’re against Trump, you do.”

“That’s why I’ve suggested that the president occasionally wear a mask,” Alexander said.

“The president has plenty of admirers, they would follow his lead,” he added. “It would help end this political debate.”

Trump, who refuses to wear a mask at public events and in the past has mocked his rivals for wearing them, has signalled he wants to move on from the coronavirus crisis and focus on his re-election campaign.

Democrats including his November election rival Joe Biden have savaged the president for lack of leadership on pandemic mitigation.

Tuesday’s hearing focused in part on whether the United States can adequately prepare for tens of millions of children returning to school in the coming months despite the resilient pandemic raging in some states.

The American Academy of Pediatrics has advocated that the coming school year begin with students physically present in schools, arguing that children are less likely to become symptomatic or severely ill with coronavirus than adults.

Fauci himself said he feels “very strongly we need to do whatever we can to get our children back to school.”

He also said he was “cautiously optimistic” that a vaccine could be ready by the end of the year or early 2021.

 

AFP

U.S. Baby’s HIV Infection Cured Through Very Early Treatment

A baby girl in Mississippi who was born with HIV has been cured after very early treatment with standard HIV drugs, U.S. researchers reported on Sunday, in a potentially ground-breaking case that could offer insights on how to eradicate HIV infection in its youngest victims.

Dr. Deborah Persaud
Dr. Deborah Persaud

The child’s story is the first account of an infant achieving a so-called functional cure, a rare event in which a person achieves remission without the need for drugs and standard blood tests show no signs that the virus is making copies of itself.

More testing needs to be done to see if the treatment would have the same effect on other children, but the results could change the way high-risk babies are treated and possibly lead to a cure for children with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS.

“This is a proof of concept that HIV can be potentially curable in infants,” said Dr. Deborah Persaud, a virologist at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, who presented the findings at the Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections in Atlanta.

The child’s story is different from the now famous case of Timothy Ray Brown, the so-called “Berlin patient,” whose HIV infection was completely eradicated through an elaborate treatment for leukemia in 2007 that involved the destruction of his immune system and a stem cell transplant from a donor with a rare genetic mutation that resists HIV infection.

“We believe this is our Timothy Brown case to spur research interest toward a cure for HIV infection in children,” Persaud said at a news conference.

Instead of Brown’s costly treatment, however, the case of the Mississippi baby, who was not identified, involved the use of a cocktail of widely available drugs already used to treat HIV infection in infants.

When the baby girl was born in a rural hospital in July 2010, her mother had just tested positive for HIV infection. Because her mother had not received any prenatal HIV treatment, doctors knew the child was at high risk of infection. They transferred her to the University of Mississippi Medical Center in Jackson, where she came under the care of Dr. Hannah Gay, a pediatric HIV specialist.

Because of her risk, Dr. Gay put the infant on a cocktail of three HIV-fighting drugs – zidovudine (also known as AZT), lamivudine, and nevirapine – when she was just 30 hours old. Two blood tests done within the first 48 hours of the child’s life confirmed her infection and she was kept on the full treatment regimen, Persaud told reporters at the conference.

In more typical pregnancies, when an HIV-infected mother has been given drugs to reduce the risk of transmission to her child, the baby would only have been given a single drug, nevirapine.

Researchers believe use of the more aggressive antiretroviral treatment when the child was just days old likely resulted in her cure by keeping the virus from forming hard-to-treat pools of cells known as viral reservoirs, which lie dormant and out of the reach of standard medications. These reservoirs rekindle HIV infection in patients who stop therapy, and they are the reason most HIV-infected individuals need lifelong treatment to keep the infection at bay.

10-MONTH GAP

After starting on treatment, the baby’s immune system responded and tests showed diminishing levels of the virus until it was undetectable 29 days after birth. The baby received regular treatment for 18 months, but then stopped coming to appointments for a period of about 10 months, when her mother said she was not given any treatment. The doctors did not say why the mother stopped coming.

When the child came back under the care of Dr. Gay, she ordered standard blood tests to see how the child was faring before resuming antiviral therapy.

What she found was surprising. The first blood test did not turn up any detectible levels of HIV. Neither did the second. And tests for HIV-specific antibodies, the standard clinical indicator of HIV infection, also remained negative.

“At that point, I knew I was dealing with a very unusual case,” Dr. Gay said.

Baffled, Dr. Gay turned to her friend and longtime colleague, Dr. Katherine Luzuriaga of the University of Massachusetts, and she and Persaud did a series of sophisticated lab tests on the child’s blood.

The first looked for silent reservoirs of the virus where it remains dormant but can replicate if activated. That is detected in a type of immune cell known as a CD4 T-cell. After culturing the child’s cells, they found no sign of the virus.

Then, the team looked for HIV DNA, which indicates that the virus has integrated itself into the genetic material of the infected person. This test turned up such low levels that it was just above the limit of the test’s ability to detect it.

The third test looked for bits of genetic material known as viral RNA. They only found a single copy of viral RNA in one of the two tests they ran.

Because there is no detectible virus in the child’s blood, the team has advised that she not be given antiretroviral therapy, whose goal is to block the virus from replicating in the blood. Instead, she will be monitored closely.

There are no samples that can be used by other researchers to confirm the findings, which may lead skeptics to challenge how the doctors know for sure that the child was infected.

Persaud said the team is trying to use the tiny scraps of viral genetic material they have been able to gather from the child to compare with the mother’s infection, to confirm that the child’s infection came from her mother. But, she stressed, the baby had tested positive in two separate blood tests, and there had been evidence of the virus replicating in her blood, which are standard methods of confirming HIV infection.

ADDITIONAL RESEARCH

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institutes of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said although tools to prevent transmission of HIV to infants are available, many children are born infected. “With this case, it appears we may have not only a positive outcome for the particular child, but also a promising lead for additional research toward curing other children,” he said.

Dr. Rowena Johnston, vice president and director of research for amfAR, The Foundation for AIDS Research, which helped fund the study, said the fact that the cure was achieved by antiretroviral therapy alone makes it “imperative that we learn more about a newborn’s immune system, how it differs from an adult’s and what factors made it possible for the child to be cured.”

Because the child’s treatment was stopped, the doctors were able to determine that this child had been cured, raising questions about whether other children who received early treatment and have undetectable viral loads may also be cured without their doctors knowing it.

But the doctors warned parents not to be tempted to take their children off treatment to see if the virus comes back. Normally, when patients stop taking their medications, the virus comes roaring back, and treatment interruptions increase the risk that the virus will develop drug resistance.

“We don’t want that,” Dr. Gay said. “Patients who are on successful therapy need to stay on their successful therapy until we figure out a whole lot more about what was going on with this child and what we can do for others in the future.”

The researchers are trying to find biomarkers that would offer a rationale to consider stopping therapy within the context of a clinical trial. If they can learn what caused the child to clear her virus, they hope to replicate that in other babies, and eventually learn to routinely cure infections.