White House coronavirus advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci urged young Americans to not take the coronavirus lightly, saying doing so could propagate the pandemic.
"You have to have responsibility for yourself but also a societal responsibility that you’re getting infected is not just you in a vacuum. You’re propagating the pandemic," Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg in an interview Thursday evening.
The comment by Fauci came as state health officials say more young people are ignoring social distancing measures and contracting the virus at a higher rate. Fauci said the average age of a new COVID-19 patient has dropped by 15 years since the beginning of the pandemic in the U.S.
Vice President Mike Pence warned last month that roughly half of the new cases in the U.S. were people under the age of 35, particularly in Florida and Texas.
Fauci said young people at bars enjoying themselves is "totally understandable." But he warned that young people who are asymptomatic, who never develop symptoms, can also pass the virus on to others.
"I get that," he said Thursday. "I was there at one point in my life. Or see people in crowds and you say well, they think they’re not doing anything that’s particularly harmful, but they might be."
Fauci had warned last month that doctors and infectious disease specialists were seeing "more and more" complications with COVID-19 in young people.
Early in the outbreak in the U.S., researchers said the virus appeared to be sparing young people while being particularly severe for the elderly and those with underlying health conditions.
That’s not the case, Fauci said during a House Energy and Commerce Committee hearing on June 23. "To think young people have no deleterious consequences is not true. We’re seeing more and more complications in young people."
Fauci said he’s never seen a single virus have such a wide range of symptoms.
Some people have no symptoms while "some get mild symptoms and some get symptoms enough to put them at home for a few days. Some are in bed for weeks and have symptoms even after they recover, others go to the hospital, some require oxygen, some require intensive care, some get intubated and some die," he said.
Fauci was appointed director of NIAID in 1984 and has worked under six U.S. presidents.
In recent days, President Donald Trump and other administration officials have been critical about Fauci’s response to the coronavirus pandemic.
Despite the criticism, Fauci told "The Atlantic" magazine that he hasn’t thought about resigning. "I think the problem is too important for me to get into those kinds of thoughts and discussions," he said, according to an edited transcript of the interview. "I just want to do my job. I’m really good at it. I think I can contribute. And I’m going to keep doing it."
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