Known as the nation's top infectious disease expert, Dr. Fauci is pleading with the public to do its part to help slow down the spread.
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"We need to drop back a few yards and say 'okay, we can't stay shutdown forever,'" said Dr. Anthony Fauci, NIAID director, during a virtual fireside chat with Stanford Medicine on Monday morning.
Fauci spoke candidly about the importance of gradually reopening the economy, but doing so wisely.
"Pull back a bit and then proceed in a prudent way of observing the guidelines of going step to step," said Fauci. "All you needed to do was look at the films on TV of people in some states who went from shutdown to complete throwing caution to the wind."
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As scientists work on potential drugs for the virus, Fauci is "cautiously optimistic" that a safe and effective vaccine will be ready by the end of the year, or early 2021. His comments come as reports seem to indicate a growing rift between him and the White House.
Two senior-level White House sources tell ABC News that Fauci has at times been referred to among aides to President Donald Trump as "Dr. Gloom and Doom."
Politics aside, Stanford infectious disease expert, Dr. Yvonne Maldonado, says it's more important than ever to rely on data and science.
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"Really continue to try and engage with individual populations, and I find that when you can engage at a community level, it's very effective in trying to gain trust, and having a dialogue," said Maldonado.
Fauci praised the Bay Area for its continued work on fighting the virus, but says it's too early for the community to let its guard down.
"Think of not only your personal responsibilities, but your societal responsibilities because although you may not get sick, almost certainly, you're going to infect somebody else, who almost certainly infects somebody else, and then you will get a vulnerable person who will be sick, who will go to the hospital who might die," said Fauci.
Fauci has led the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases for 36 years. He has worked on several viral epidemics including HIV/AIDS, SARS, Zika and Ebola.
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