New York, March 18 : America's leading infectious diseases scientist serving on the White House coronavirus task force is confident that the cocktail of containment and mitigation measures which has sent the US into a near shutdown will be successful against COVID-19 but it's too early to say how swiftly the peak impact of the pandemic will start to flatten out.
"If everyone does their job, we're going to be able to give you a number and say, you know, we've seen that inflection and we're coming down", Anthony Fauci, Director of the National Institute For Allergy and Infectious Diseases at the National Institutes of Health, said at a White House briefing on Tuesday.
Fauci said he is betting on the "unprecedented" combination of tactics in the US from travel restrictions to internal containment and testing to deliver results.
"One day we're going to stand up here and say we won," US President Donald Trump said at the White House briefing.
The White House is also calling on young Americans to lead by example on social distancing.
"Don't get the attitude, well, I'm young, I'm invulnerable. You are certainly less vulnerable than I am, however, you don't want to put your loved ones at risk," Fauci said to America's millennials from the White House megaphone.
Fauci said it's not "unreasonable" to project that the virus will reach its peak in about 45 days. Fauci was responding to a question about New York governor Andrew Cuomo's comments on a 45-day peak trajectory.
Fauci said that in the "race" against the virus, it's possible that the curve may seem to be going up despite society's "interference" via aggressive social distancing.
"It would be several weeks and maybe longer before we know whether we're having an effect, that maybe at the end of the day, we'll see a curve that would have been way, way up if we hadn't done what we are doing today." Fauci cautioned against checking the caseload "every few days" to come to conclusions about the slope of the curve.
"That would be really misleading if we do that", he said.
Fauci underlined that although testing and diagnostics is crucial to know the scale of the virus spread, mitigation measures and epic shutdowns are essential.
"Even if we had no testing, we should be doing what we're doing now," he said.
The US government issued guidelines this week titled "15 Days to Slow the Spread".
The 15 days are seen as a trial period for the new recommendations which rest on these pillars: If you feel sick, stay home. Do not go to work. If your children are sick, keep them at home. If someone in your household has tested positive for the coronavirus, keep the entire household at home. If you are an older American, stay home and away from other people. If you are a person with a serious underlying health condition-such as a significant heart or lung disease - stay home and away from other people.
The guidelines recommend that in states with evidence of community transmission, bars, restaurants, food courts, gyms, schools and other indoor and outdoor venues where people congregate should close.
This week, San Francisco Bay Area counties issued a radical "shelter-in-place" mandate Monday affecting about 7 million people, ordering residents to stay at home and go outside only for food, medicine and outings that are absolutely essential.
These are among the strictest measures in America till date.
(Nikhila Natarajan can be contacted at email@example.com)