A rush transcript of “This Week with George Stephanopoulos” airing on Sunday, August 1, 2021 on ABC News is below. This copy may not be in its final form, may be updated and may contain minor transcription errors. For previous show transcripts, visit the “This Week” transcript archive .
JONATHAN KARL, HOST: So where do we go from here? Is this a temporary setback or a deadly new trend? Dr. Anthony Fauci is here to help us make sense of it all.
So, Dr. Fauci, thank you for joining us. Help me understand, are we headed towards a period, once again, where we’re going to see lockdowns, businesses shutting down, masks routine for everybody, or is this — or is this potentially just a temporary setback?
DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY & INFECTIOUS DISEASES: Jon, I don’t think we’re going to see lockdowns. I think we have enough of the percentage of people in the country, not enough to crush the outbreak, but I believe enough to not allow us to get into the situation we were in last winter. But things are going to get worse. If you look at the acceleration of the number of cases, the seven-day average has gone up substantially. You know, what we really need to do, Jon, we say it over and over again, and it’s the truth, we have 100 million people in this country who are eligible to be vaccinated who are not getting vaccinated.
We are seeing an outbreak of the unvaccinated. There are some breakthrough infections among vaccinated, you’d expect that because no vaccine is 100 percent effective. But in the breakthrough infections, they are mostly mild or without symptoms, whereas the unvaccinated who have a much, much, much greater chance of getting infected in the first place, are the ones that are vulnerable to getting severe illness that might lead to hospitalization and in some cases death.
So we’re looking, not, I believe, to lockdown, but we’re looking to some pain and suffering in the future because we’re seeing the cases go up, which is the reason why we keep saying over and over again, the solution to this is get vaccinated and this would not be happening.
KARL: And is this pain and suffering for the most part pain and suffering for those that have not been vaccinated? I mean, the bottom line here is, isn’t it, that there are breakthrough infections for those that have been vaccinated but you are highly unlikely to either be hospitalized or to die if you have been vaccinated. Isn't that right?
FAUCI: That is correct, Jon. There's no doubt about that. That's one of the really very, very important reasons you want people to get vaccinated. The vaccines are doing what they're supposed to do. They're protecting one from getting seriously ill, requiring hospitalizations, and perhaps even dying.
However, when you have unvaccinated people getting infected, you're propagating the dynamics of the outbreak, which ultimately impacts everybody, from the standpoint of having to wear masks, from the standpoint of the safety of the kids in school, from the standpoint of being able to open up everything the way we were when we were normal.
So yes, from the standpoint of illness, hospitalization, suffering and death, the unvaccinated are the much more vulnerable because the vaccinated are protected from severe illness for the most part. But when you look at the country as a whole and getting us back to normal, the unvaccinated, by not being vaccinated, are allowing the propagation and the spread of the outbreak, which ultimately impacts everyone.
KARL: Okay. But walk me through this mask guidance. The CDC is now recommending in certain circumstances people that are fully vaccinated to wear masks indoors, even though you are highly unlikely to get either severely sick or to die if you have been vaccinated. So walk me through the science. Why this recommendation of masks —
KARL: — for people that are fully vaccinated and unlikely to get very sick?
FAUCI: Right. All right. Masks for the fully vaccinated, the change and the modification of the guideline, which was formally if you were fully vaccinated you did not need to wear a mask indoors or outdoors. The change as we know now is that even if you're fully vaccinated, when you are in an indoor setting, in an area of the country that has a high or substantial degree of transmissibility, what we know as the orange and the red zones, you should wear a mask, even if you in fact are vaccinated.
That has much more to do with transmission, Jon, in the sense that we know now that there are situations, as unusual as they are but they occur, we hear about them all the time, because no vaccine is 100 percent effective. Which means in areas of high volume of infection, vaccinated people will get infected. Thank goodness for the most part they will not get seriously ill. They will generally be asymptomatic or mildly symptomatic.
But we do know now, with this very difficult Delta variant, it's different than the Alpha variant in a very important way. And the important way is that it's much more highly transmissible and when you do get infected, even if you don't have symptoms, the level of virus in the nasopharynx is quite high and, in fact, recent studies have shown that the level of virus in the nasopharynx of a vaccinated person who may not be symptomatic or mildly symptomatic is the same as an unvaccinated person.
We know that vaccinated, asymptomatic, mildly symptomatic people who are infected can spread the infection. So you want them to wear a mask so that if in fact they do get infected, they don't spread it to vulnerable people.
KARL: We’re almost out of time, but I want to ask you about the reaction we’ve seen from prominent Republican governors. We’ve seen Florida Republican Governor DeSantis, Republican Governor Abbott of Texas, Governor Ducey in Arizona push back strongly against the notion of mask requirements. Let me read you a quote from Governor Ducey in Arizona. He said: “Arizona does not allow mask mandates, vaccine mandates, vaccine passports, or discrimination in schools based on who is or isn’t vaccinated.”
They are arguing that this is individual responsibility, an individual’s right to decide. What is your answer to these — you know, these are Republican governors in some of the largest states in our country?
FAUCI: Well, Jon, I disagree with them. I respectfully disagree with them. The fact is there are things that are individual responsibilities that one has and there are things that have to do with you individually which also impact others. And the spread of infection that we’re seeing now, the surge in cases, Jon, is impacting everyone in the country. So although you want to respect a person’s individual right, when you’re dealing with a public health situation, and we are, in fact, in a very serious public health challenge here with a pandemic, with a virus that has an extraordinary capability of spreading rapidly and efficiently from person to person.
So a person’s individual, individual decision to not wear a mask not only impacts them, because if they get infected, even though they say it’s my decision if I get infected, I’ll worry about that. But the fact is if you get infected, even if you are without symptoms, you very well may infect another person who may be vulnerable, who may get seriously ill. So in essence, you are encroaching on their individual rights because you’re making them vulnerable. So you could argue that situation both ways.
KARL: OK. Dr. Fauci, thank you very much for sharing part of your Sunday with us.
FAUCI: Good to be with you, Jon. Thank you for having me.
JONATHAN KARL, ABC "THIS WEEK" CO-ANCHOR: In his effort to encourage more vaccinations, President Biden announced new requirements for federal workers — to be vaccinated or face mandatory testing.
Here to discuss all that, plus the bipartisan breakthrough in Congress on infrastructure is Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg.
Thank you, Mr. Secretary.
Let me ask you about this new rule and the pushback we are seeing (ph) from a lot of federal employees, unions — unions that are representing workers, including at the Department of Transportation. One of those unions, the Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association, called this new rule a clear violation of civil rights.
So, what do you say these unions — and there are several of them — that are uncomfortable with the new rule and how it came about?
PETE BUTTIGIEG, TRANSPORTATION SECRETARY: Well, this is about protecting lives. This is about setting a good example.
And to be clear, employees have a choice. Either attest to their vaccination and indicate that that's happened, or there has to be other measures to keep the workplace safe, including masking and social distancing, testing. This is a basic safety measure at a time when we continue to see this very dangerous variant spreading around our country.
Look, we have so many obligations in so many dimensions of employee safety, to make sure that this is a safe workplace. This is part of that. But it's also important I think for our federal workforce to lead by example because we're asking the whole country to do what it takes to make sure that we get beyond this pandemic. And this is a very important part of how to do it.
KARL: And I know that this is not part of your purview as the secretary of transportation, not something that you're focused. But there's a lot of outrage over the expiration of the eviction moratorium, the failure of Congress to actually renew it, the belated way that the White House urged Congress to do it.
Listen to Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. ALEXANDRIA OCASIO-CORTEZ (D-NY): Everybody knew this was coming. We were sounding the alarm about this issue. The fact that statement came out just yesterday is unacceptable.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KARL: So, I'm asking you as a member of President Biden's cabinet. Did the White House fail on this? You know, now, we have millions of people potentially facing evictions.
BUTTIGIEG: Let's be clear, the administration has been acting throughout, and the president views as a moral issue, not just a political one. And so, that's why you see not just the guidance that went out recently through the agencies on steps that they can take, but also the work that's been going on from the beginning to get emergency rental assistance out to families, it's out to states but it's not yet necessarily getting to everybody.
But the pace has picked up. In fact, the last one, we have reporting on, it was more than the previous months, and we need to continue getting this emergency assistance out to people so that they can stay in their homes. Yes, the president enthusiastically supports movement to extend this, but we're not waiting for that, and haven't been. There have been steps at every level, at using every lever available to this administration throughout, and will continue to be.
KARL: Okay, let's move on to infrastructure. This was a major breakthrough, you had 17 Republicans voting to begin debate on this. Obviously, it hasn't passed yet. Lot of potential obstacles. But if this comes together, more than a trillion dollars on new infrastructure spending. What will this mean to the average American?
BUTTIGIEG: Well, every American is going to see a difference and I think that's one of the reasons why you had this extraordinary sight, something you just don't see in today's Washington very often, on a major issue, which is Republicans and Democrats coming together, saying, "Let's do this." And for that matter, business and labor rarely are on the same page about a major economic issue, at the table saying, "Okay, let's get this done."
We're talking about roads and bridges, we're talking about ports and airports, we're talking about rail and transit, not to mention the work that's going on on water, on broadband. There is no county, no community, certainly no state in this nation that won't see improvements because of this. Just like every part of this country has seen the cost of us failing to invest over the last 10, 20, 40 years the way that we should have been.
Now, my department stands ready to get to work as soon as we get those dollars — once those are signed by the president. But, of course, we got more work to do to make sure everything comes together.
KARL: Yes —
BUTTIGIEG: Bottom-line is that we cannot remain in 13th place as a country, with transportation infrastructure. As we change that, the other thing I want to mention that Americans are going to see in every part of the country, is new jobs. Millions of good paying jobs, most of which are available to workers whether they have a college degree or not.
KARL: Okay. So that's quite a pitch for this but we've heard from Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi that — she says she will not take this bill up in the House unless the Senate also passes the much larger social infrastructure bill that is opposed — that all Republicans oppose, even a couple of Democrats are not necessarily supportive of.
Would that be a mistake for Democrats in the House not to pass this bill unless they can also pass this other larger bill? I mean, isn't this good in and of itself —
BUTTIGIEG: Well, we've —
KARL: — on it's own?
BUTTIGIEG: We believe in both of these packages and we believe in each of these packages and the president has made clear that he supports them both and looks forward to signing them both. But I don't want to give up on the idea that at least some Republicans could vote for the second bill too. I mean, what's taking shape there on what's called the human infrastructure side, maybe they don't want to call it human infrastructure, but they can call it whatever they like. But cutting child poverty in half by extending the childhood and tax credit (ph) — excuse me — making sure that Americans can have paid family leave so that we're not virtually the only country —
KARL: But —
BUTTIGIEG: — in the world that lacks that. But why can't at least a few Republicans vote for that? We're going to keep pushing on that end.
KARL: But — but —
KARL: — can I —
BUTTIGIEG: — seen success on the —
KARL: I —
BUTTIGIEG: — physical (ph) interest —
KARL: I understand and — can I ask you a yes or no question? Should Congress pass this even if this is the only infrastructure bill that is passed? Or should this basically be held up unless you get both?
BUTTIGIEG: We think Congress should pass both and the president looks —
BUTTIGIEG: — forward to signing both.
KARL: All right. Not quite an answer but you tried. Secretary Buttigieg, thank you very much for joining us.
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