Infectious disease expert Anthony Fauci, M.D., says rural Americans need to double-down on measures to prevent the spread of Covid-19, lest a surge in patients overwhelm rural hospitals.

Fauci, director of the National institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said rural areas can expect January and February to be difficult months for the pandemic.

He made his remarks this week on the RFD-TV program Rural Health Matters.

Fauci spoke with host Christina Loren and University of Nebraska Medical Center Chancellor Jeffery Gold about Covid-19 and what rural residents can anticipate between now and when vaccine become more readily available.

Here are highlights from the conversation:

  • Officials are very conscious of getting vaccines to rural areas, he said. “We have to be able to have access to the vaccine, but we also have to be conscious of those who many not be next door to a CVS or a Walgreens.”

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  • The roll-out of Covid-19 vaccines should pick up steam soon. Fauci said that he sees restrictions on who can get the vaccine easing soon and that within the next three to four weeks, we should see more vaccines being delivered to states. “We’re seeing substantial improvements in rolling out doses and getting them into people’s arms,” Fauci said.
  • “Things are going to get worse before they get better.” Fauci said January and February will be dark months all across the country, but rural residents can protect themselves by adhering to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines such as wearing a mask, social distancing and not traveling except when necessary.
  • New strains of the virus may be more easily transmitted but don’t seem to be stronger or more deadly. The new strains also do not seem to be immune to the vaccines, he said.
  • Notification about vaccine availability is likely to come through local health departments and local pharmacies.

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