Fauci: States must move quickly to address COVID-19 upticks

The nation’s top infectious disease expert said in an online interview Friday that he’s “cautiously optimistic” a COVID-19 vaccine could be developed soon, but acknowledged the chances it would be highly effective are “not great.”

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Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said in a discussion hosted by Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island, that he hopes a coronavirus vaccine could be 75% effective but one that's 50% to 60% effective would also be acceptable. He said it’s unlikely early versions could achieve the effectiveness of vaccines for measles, smallpox, polio and other illnesses that have been virtually eradicated.

“What I’m shooting for is somewhere between really good control and elimination,” Fauci said. “The chances of it being 98% effective is not great, which means you must never abandon the public health approach.”

Key data on the safety and efficacy of the COVID-19 vaccines in development could come as soon as November, and there's also been progress on developing therapeutics for the virus, he added.

“There’s a lot of action going on,” said Fauci, who has at times has been at odds with President Donald Trump’s pandemic response. “This is going to end.”

But he urged states seeing upticks of as little as 1% to 2% in coronavirus cases need to respond quickly and decisively because the increases never reverse themselves without public health intervention.

Fauci said another broad, economic shutdown won’t be needed, so long as officials across the nation take the proper steps to avoid a potentially difficult fall and winter for the virus.

Northeast states, including Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey and Connecticut have imposed tightened restrictions on travelers coming from Rhode Island as the state’s COVID-19 cases have steadily increased in recent weeks.

Democratic Gov. Gina Raimondo has also imposed travel restrictions, limited capacity at beaches, reduced the permitted size of parties and other large social gatherings, and ordered an 11 p.m. closure of restaurant bar areas, among other steps, in response to the rising infections.

Fauci is slated to join Raimondo next Thursday for a Facebook Live forum on the state’s school reopening plan.

Parents of Rhode Island school children will be able to submit questions to Fauci and Raimondo about the start of school this fall.

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NO NEW DEATHS

There were 100 new confirmed cases of the coronavirus in Rhode Island on Thursday, but no additional deaths, the state Department of Health said Friday.

The state now has more than 19,700 known cases while the number of coronavirus-related deaths remains at 1,014.

The number of residents in the state's hospitals with the disease as of Wednesday, the most recent date for which the information was available, remained steady at 84, while the number of patients in intensive care dropped to 10, down slightly from the previous day.

The seven-day rolling average of daily new cases in Rhode Island has risen over the past two weeks from 62.43 new cases per day on July 23 to 94.43 new cases per day on Thursday, according to the Johns Hopkins University Center for Systems Science and Engineering.

The seven-day rolling average of the positivity rate in Rhode Island has risen over the past two weeks from 3.66% on July 23 to 5.9% on Thursday, according to Johns Hopkins.