Dr. Anthony Fauci said Vermonters should keep doing what they’ve been doing.
The director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases joined Gov. Phil Scott’s Tuesday news conference by video to praise the state’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic and urge Vermonters to stay the course.
“I believe strongly that I’d do what you’ve been doing in Vermont in the rest of the country ... I believe that as we enter the fall and the winter, which will be a challenge because there will be much more indoor activity as opposed to outdoor activity, that we can not only get through the fall and the winter, but we can come out the other end better off than we went in,” he said.
Fauci said that if Vermonters continuing wearing masks, washing their hands and social distancing, the state could even avoid a second wave during the winter. However, he cautioned against Vermonters against letting their guard down.
“Even when you are in as good a shape as Vermont is, you get in that shape by doing the things you’ve done,” he said. “The message I would like all the citizens of the state to hear is that the virus is a formidable foe.”
Fauci said the state’s success cannot simply be attributed to its low population density — Vermont ranks 31st in population density and has a lower infection rate than many more sparsely populated states.
“This is success because of what you did,” he said. “We’ve seen places with high density succeed. For example, although New York City got hit very hard ... now in New York City, they have it right. They got their percentage of positivity not as low as you-all in Vermont, but they got it pretty low.”
Fauci sidestepped questions about the Trump administration’s initial response to the pandemic.
“You can always say what would’ve happened, could’ve happened, should’ve happened,” he said. “That question is not productive.”
Fauci also said that he was not worried an unproven vaccine might be rushed through for political reasons. He said the system for approving vaccine has enough independent checks and balances that he would not hesitate to use one that made it through.
The news conference also offered a progress report on schools reopening. Vermont Health Commissioner Mark Levine said that college heads around the state were “upbeat,” and while the cases Hartford High School and Crossett Brook Middle School in Duxbury were unwelcome news, outbreaks were inspected and schools responded in exactly the way they were supposed to, with contact tracing and other containment measures proceeding quickly.