Faith leaders are needed to help fight the coronavirus and its new variants, according to Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and the chief medical adviser to the president.
“Faith leaders have an enormous impact because among all the different sectors in society, faith leaders are among the most trusted messengers,” he said in an exclusive interview with Baptist News Global. “If you look at who the most trusted people are, it’s schoolteachers and clergy.”
“So, if you can counter the misinformation and the disinformation that goes around, you would go a long way to helping our cause,” he urged.
Fauci knows that counteracting misinformation and keeping people safe during the holiday season requires people of faith to play their part.
“If you can counter the misinformation and the disinformation that goes around, you would go a long way to helping our cause.”
He’s not asking faith leaders to do anything he isn’t already doing. He lives and breathes this fight daily and, just like the rest of America, it has affected his daily life. He even missed Thanksgiving with his family this past year due to working on concerns about the Omicron variant.
“We found out about Omicron early morning of Thanksgiving Day, and that took care of my Thanksgiving Day,” he said. “I didn’t have Thanksgiving.”
With church services and family gatherings being a staple of the holiday season, he has better-than-expected news.
“I would say if you are vaccinated, and the people that you’re congregating with are vaccinated, and preferably also have gotten boosted, that it is OK to gather indoors with family and with friends for the holidays,” he said. “If you are in a situation where you are in an indoor congregant setting, but you don’t know the vaccine status of the people around you, then you should be wearing a mask. But, for example, if you are with friends and family and they’re all vaccinated, and you’re there for a Christmas dinner or a gathering, it’s safe to do that.”
He knows not all his cautious advice during the pandemic has been well-received. When asked how he handles the criticism that comes his way, he doesn’t miss a beat: He wants to keep his eye on the mission of the job he feels called to do.
A big part of that is education.
“If you are with friends and family and they’re all vaccinated, and you’re there for a Christmas dinner or a gathering, it’s safe to do that.”
“The new variant is called Omicron. It was recognized first in Southern Africa, with a concentration of cases. Omicron has a lot of mutations that are not seen in the other variants, which suggests that it might be more transmissible and that it might evade some of the immune parameters that are afforded by monoclonal antibodies or vaccines.
“There’s still a lot to be learned, that we don’t know a lot about. We don’t know if it induces a more severe disease, but we do know that it spreads pretty rapidly. It’s right now in about 50 countries. It was only recognized just a few weeks ago in South Africa and Southern Africa; it is in a situation where it’s now in about 18 states here in the United States that have it. We don’t know what the implications of it are going to be.”
And despite all the talk of Omicron, “don’t lose sight that we are still in the middle of a big surge of Delta,” he said.
It’s that big surge of the Delta variant that Fauci wants to make sure people understand. COVID isn’t over yet.
Watch a video of the conversation between Anthony Fauci and Maina Mwaura here.
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