The head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases said he believes the country will not have to go into another economic shutdown.
Dr. Anthony Fauci said the U.S. can improve its response effort to the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic without another round of widespread economic shutdowns.
While speaking at an online event jointly hosted by the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and the New England Journal of Medicine Wednesday afternoon, Fauci told Dr. Sanjay Gupta of CNN that he doesn't believe the country will need to go into another economic shutdown to stem the spread of COVID-19.
"We can do better without locking down," Fauci said.
He added that the U.S. has struggled with an ongoing surge of COVID-19 cases due to human behaviors that contribute to the spread of the virus.
"As long as you have any member of society, any demographic group, who's not seriously trying to get to the end game of suppressing this, it will continue to smolder and smolder and smolder, and that will be the reason why, in a non-unified way, we've plateaued at an unacceptable level," Fauci said.
The shutdowns that took place across the country this spring had a significantly negative impact on the national economy and specifically impacted the business model for hospitals and health systems.
The widespread cancellation of elective surgeries temporarily eliminated a reliable revenue generator for provider organizations.
In late June, a Definitive Healthcare study found that 40% of acute care organizations are at risk of closure, two-thirds of which are organizations with less than 100 beds, due to financial challenges stemming from the outbreak.
On the topic of the ongoing race to develop and test an effective and safe COVID-19 vaccine, Fauci said he is "cautiously optimistic" that pharmaceutical companies will manufacture one by the start of 2021.
He also spoke about the growing recognition of racial health disparities in healthcare, noting that African Americans and other minority groups have a "much greater incidence and prevalence of the underlying conditions that lead to a severe outcome."
Editor's note: This story was updated on August 6, 2020.