Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, joined CNN's Brianna Keilar to discuss efforts to combat the coronavirus.
"People sometimes think that you're overreacting," he said. "I like it when people are thinking I'm overreacting because that means we're doing it just right."
DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: Good to be with you.
KEILAR: So, one week ago, we were reporting 19 deaths, 490 infected.
Today, the count is at least 60 deaths, almost 3,000 infected. And you say, as we heard, that the virus may continue to get worse for another two months. There have been estimates of hundreds of thousands of people in the U.S. who could die or, in the worst-case scenario, millions.
Can you tell the American people that that is possible?
FAUCI: It's possible because, when you do a model, you have a worst-case scenario, the best-case scenario, and the reality is, how you react to that will depend where you're going to be on that curve.
So, obviously, we are clearly going to have more infections. There's going to be more problems with regard to morbidity and mortality. The challenge we have right now is, how do we blunt that?
You know, I have said many times, if you just leave it alone and let the virus to its own devices, it'll go way up, and then it'll come down naturally over a period of several weeks.
Unfortunately, for our colleagues in Italy and in France and certainly in China, that's what happened. Our challenge right now is to do two things, is to prevent the new influx of cases, hence, the travel restrictions, and, for what we're dealing with right now is to know that we're going to get more infections, but blunt it, so that we don't have that sharp peak, that we have more of a smaller hump.
Even with that, we're going to have people getting infected. But we need to try and get there, as opposed to there.
KEILAR: I do think one of the important points of illustrating for people the number of people who could die is that it really makes it clear to them why it's so important to do what they should be doing, so -- to stem the tide of this.
Are you thinking that hundreds of thousands of Americans could die from this?
FAUCI: I say that, and it sometimes gets taken out of context, but we have to be realistic and honest.
Yes, it is possible. Our job, our challenge is to try and make that not happen. But to think, if we go about our daily lives and not worry about everything, that it's not going to happen, it could happen. And it could be worse.
To me, that's a real impetus to take very seriously the kinds of things -- I might make a point that people sometimes think that you're overreacting. I like it when people are thinking, I'm overreacting, because that means we're doing it just right.