Dr. Anthony S. Fauci: TAMACC in unique position to help educate vulnerable communities

More than 1,000 participants from across the state and the country tuned in virtually for a candid conversation with Anthony S. Fauci, MD, Director, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases at the U.S. National Institutes of Health.

The Texas Association of Mexican American Chambers of Commerce (TAMACC) hosted the webinar on Thursday, September 24 to offer a unique opportunity to hear from the epidemiologist expert.

TAMACC Board Chair, Samuel Guzman, set the stage for this unprecedented event that was organized by TAMACC President and CEO, Pauline E. Anton. J.R. Gonzales, TAMACC’s Executive Vice President, moderated the webinar.

Dr. Fauci wasted no time in revealing startling statistics that confirm minorities are disproportionately impacted by the Coronavirus.

Minorities – in particular, Hispanic and African American communities – have experienced disproportionately higher percentage rates of COVID-19 positive cases, hospitalizations, and deaths when compared to White Americans. In Texas, Hispanics represent 39.6% of cases and 56% of deaths.

“This is not about genetics,” Dr. Fauci noted, when asked a question by interviewer Justice Gisela D. Triana, Texas Third District Court of Appeals. “It comes down to social determinants of health, including: Accessibility to good health care and health care systems; and the increased incidence of co-morbidities (underlying health conditions) like obesity, lung, kidney, or heart disease, hypertension, diabetes, etc.”

Dr. Fauci went on to explain that frequently, those of Latino descent in particular are: on the front-line, considered essential workers without the choice to work from home; have limited access to health care; and/or may be undocumented workers who are fearful to get care.

“Increase awareness. Community leaders need to send the message from the standpoint of a trusted voice,” explained Dr. Fauci. “After all, I’m still a white guy in a suit, born in New York City.”

Further, he urged getting vaccinated once a vaccine becomes available and to get involved in clinical trials.

“It is extremely important that Hispanics/Latinos and other minority populations get vaccinated,” explained Dr. Fauci. “But, even ahead of a vaccine being available, participating in the advanced trails currently underway would go a long way in helping these communities be confident in those vaccines that are ultimately released.”

This is where TAMACC and other minority community leaders can have a real impact.

There are currently four advanced clinical trials underway, according to Dr. Fauci, but participation is primarily by White Americans with only 18% of total participants of Hispanic descent and 16% African Americans.

“Increase awareness. Community leaders need to send the message from the standpoint of a trusted voice,” explained Dr. Fauci. “After all, I’m still a white guy in a suit, born in New York City.”

Interested participants can sign up for trials at: www.coronaviruspreventionnetwork.org

When asked about the timing of a vaccine, Dr. Fauci said November or December is most likely the soonest that the country will know if there is a viable vaccine on the horizon. It could be as early as October, but not likely.

When a vaccine does ultimately become available, Dr. Fauci shared that it will be free, FDA-approved and that “Yes, I will take the vaccine and recommend to my family to do so as well. Regardless of what is going back-and-forth in the media, I trust the FDA and trust the CDC” [to act in the best interest of the American people].

In response to a question of how to balance controlling the spread of this disease with opening the economy back up while at the same time addressing those who claim their civil liberties are being taken away, Dr. Fauci remarked: “The enemy is the virus; not the people wanting to control the virus. Adhering to important public health measures represents the gateway to opening the economy; not an obstacle.”

TAMACC stands ready to assist in every way possible to better educate Hispanics and other minorities throughout the communities in which member organizations serve. Education – and ensuring residents are healthy – are key to getting back to a fully operational economy.

“As a 45-plus year organization, TAMACC stands ready to assist our members,” explained Pauline E. Anton, TAMACC President and CEO. “In fact, we are willing to assist anyone we can. We are working with other Hispanic chambers and organizations across Texas to provide consistent and reliable messaging; highlight available resources; and continuing to educate our communities – whether it be about how to best comply with the everchanging rules or simply getting back to business.”

Immediately following Dr. Fauci’s presentation, TAMACC hosted a round table discussion with key minority leaders from across the State, including: Kimberly Avila Edwards, MD, Pediatrician, Dell Children’s Medical Center of Central Texas; J.A. Gonzalez, Ph.D., Superintendent, McAllen Independent School District; Cindy Ramos-Davidson, CEO, El Paso Hispanic Chamber of Commerce; Adriana Rocha Garcia, Ph.D., San Antonio Council Member; and Senator Royce West, (D) Dallas.

Continued collaboration, educating the community, ensuring TAMACC’s resources continue to be enhanced and available to businesses across the State were the primary themes, with the promise for on-going discussion.

The full Webinar is available for viewing at www.tamacc.org

Additional information/excerpts from Webinar

To-date, according to Dr. Fauci and the CDC, there are 32M cases of COVID-19 and 1M deaths across the world. The U.S., however, has been hit harder than any other country with 7M cases and more than 200,000 deaths (203,180).

From March 1 – September 12:

  • African Americans experienced the highest hospitalization rates
  • Latinos – second highest

More has been learned about the virus over the past several months, namely that it spreads incredibly efficiently – speaking, singing, even normal conversations can spread the virus. That means “high touch” areas – restaurants, bars, even churches – can increase transmission.

Those individuals who are asymptomatic (i.e. exhibit no signs or symptoms of COVID-19, but still carry the virus) account for 40 – 45% of overall cases and account for more than 50% transmissions. The term used in this case is “silent transmission,” because these carriers of the virus do not get sick themselves, but still pass it on to others.

Reliable preventions remain:

  • Wearing masks/cloth face coverings
  • Social distancing – 6’ rule
  • Avoiding crowds and large gatherings
  • Choosing outdoor versus indoor activities/venues
  • Frequently washing hands

85% of COVID-19 cases – while perhaps mild – still can result in lasting symptoms for some.

There is no scientific evidence that one can boost their immunity during this pandemic. Vitamins/supplements can help you maintain the integrity of immunity, but healthy living is best determinant: Relieve stress, exercise, don’t smoke, drink in moderation, etc.

Get a flu shot! “One of the worst-case scenarios we could have as a country is a bad flu season,” explained Dr. Fauci. He went on to say that it would likely exacerbate what we are currently experiencing with the COVID-19 pandemic.