KEY POINTS

  • COVID-19 has already killed more than 166,000 people in the United States
  • Dr. Fauci in a recent interview warned against attempting to achieve herd immunity
  • Given the prevalence of obesity, diabetes and high blood pressure in the nation, it can be highly risky, he said

If the country allowed the virus to spread unchecked in an attempt to achieve herd immunity, the "death toll would be enormous and totally unacceptable", Dr. Anthony Fauci told Matthew McConaughey in an Instagram interview Thursday.

The actor rapidly fired questions at the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases during the  interview on several aspects such as surface transmission of the novel coronavirus, social distancing and whether Advil worsened COVID-19 symptoms.

When McConaughey asked if sunlight killed the virus, Fauci told him that it did.

But when the actor followed it up with asking if allowing everyone to get infected would help achieve herd protection, Fauci said, "If everyone contracted it, even with the relatively high percentage of people without symptoms ... a lot of people are going to die".

Several epidemiologists believe herd immunity is necessary to contain a virus and can be achieved when a vast majority of the population either survives the infection or gets vaccinated and develops antibodies to fight new infections. This leaves the virus without enough hosts to infect.

However, according to Fauci, allowing the spread of coronavirus unchecked in the United States would cause huge problems, given the prevalence of obesity in the country and high-risk health conditions like diabetes and high blood pressure.

"If everyone contracted it ... a lot of people are going to die," Fauci said.

Fauci condemned the idea of letting everyone get infected to try to achieve the so-called herd immunity. He warned the death toll would be "enormous and totally unacceptable".

Health experts and researchers opine 60% to 80% of the population should be vaccinated or possess natural antibodies to achieve herd immunity. Spanish researchers pointed out last month herd immunity from COVID-19 is unachievable through natural means and any such attempt would be highly unethical.

And in July, the World Health Organization also advised public officials against trying to achieve herd immunity by letting the virus spread rapidly throughout communities. At that time Fauci had said nations can bring down the level of infection but it is highly unlikely the virus will be eradicated by this process.

Despite infecting only less than 2% of the U.S. population, the virus has already killed over 166,000 individuals, per John Hopkins University data.

'I don't think we're going to be talking about going back to lockdown,' Anthony Fauci said when asked whether places like California and Texas that are seeing a surge in their caseload should reissue stay-at-home orders 'I don't think we're going to be talking about going back to lockdown,' Anthony Fauci said when asked whether places like California and Texas that are seeing a surge in their caseload should reissue stay-at-home orders Photo: AFP / MANDEL NGAN