RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Mayor Levar Stoney and Dr. Anthony Fauci spoke about how the federal government can help localities fight the COVID-19 outbreak during the United States Conference of Mayors’ 89th annual Winter Meeting on Friday.
Stoney also serves as chairman of the USCM’s Children, Health and Human Services Standing Committee. As such, he led the discussion with Dr. Fauci, U.S. Surgeon General Nominee Vivek Murthy, and Mayor Bill de Blasio of New York City.
Stoney said since the pandemic began, our nation has seen more than 400,000 citizens die from the coronavirus. He asked Dr. Fauci if there was going to be a more organized approach from the federal government helping localities fight the virus going forward.
Dr. Fauci said yesterday he and the president discussed a very robust plan to get out vaccines and fight the coronavirus that has been in the works since before the inauguration.
“It’s a really thoughtful comprehensive approach,” Dr. Vivek added. He said while it doesn’t cover everything that needs to be done, because that’s still evolving, it is a good start.
Dr. Fauci said the fight of COVID-19 can’t all be done by the local or federal governments alone, there needs to be a synergy between the two.
“And that’s really what the president is trying to do,” he said. “Help in a way that is useful to help, don’t try to take over everything, don’t try to fix everything, but work in partnership.”
Stoney mentioned Fauci looked extremely happy when he spoke to the press yesterday. Dr. Fauci said it was because 15 minutes before he stepped in front of the podium, President Joe Biden spoke to him in private.
“He said ‘We all wanna confirm what I’ve told you so often, which is science and truth is going to rule,'” Dr. Fauci said.
He said the fact the president voiced his support in privately shows he really means it rather than wanting to come across a certain way to the public. Fauci said this has helped motivate the team and made them even more eager to work with localities across the nation.
Tom Cochran, CEO and Executive Director of the USCM, asked about the national shortage of vaccines. Dr. Murthy said they are hearing different areas struggling with different issues. While some localities need more vaccines, others have enough vaccines but the distribution channels are lacking, thus making it hard for people to get the vaccine.
“We know from companies that supplies will increase in the coming months,” Dr. Murthy said, adding that there could also eventually be a third vaccine come out on the market.
In the meantime, he said the federal government needs to “pull out all the stops.” This not only means increasing the supply of the vaccine and related supplies, but also making sure there are more distribution channels, otherwise the government will be sitting on vaccines people need.
Another issue discussed was people’s scepticism of the vaccine.
Mayor Stoney said the other day he was walking with an old man talking about how tired the man was tired of wearing a mask. Stoney said he told the man the sooner everyone got vaccinated the sooner they could stop wearing them. Stoney said the man was iffy about this, and told Stoney he would take the vaccine after he did.
The Mayor then asked Dr. Fauci how leaders should address people’s concerns with the vaccine.
Dr. Fauci said one thing he knows is you need to respect people of color’s distrust of the vaccine.
“Listening is a way of respecting people,” Dr. Vivek said. He said taking the time to listen to people and show them respect, helps earn back some trust in these communities.
Once you respect the concerns, Dr. Fauci said you need to go over them to help dispel any myths or misunderstandings.
For example, Fauci said many people are skeptical of the vaccine because it was developed so quickly. Dr. Fauci said the reason it was developed so quickly is because of advancements in technology, scientists working around the clock on it and the large amount of money thrown at the research.
Mayor de Blasio added while you need to respect people’s skepticism of the vaccine, you also need to remind them of the number of people who have died from the virus
To help prevent the spread of the virus while the vaccine is being distributed, Dr. Fauci said people need to double down on preventative measures like wearing masks and avoiding large gatherings.