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Following Fauci’s Lead: Lessons for Investors During COVID-19

I interviewed Dr. Fauci this week. Here are some takeaways for investors.

There's no doubt in anyone's mind that the coronavirus pandemic has managed to turn your daily life upside down.

And, as someone who has been covering it since it first started picking up steam back in January, I've seen a lot of replies both on Twitter and in my emails showing just how angry some people are about the impact--both in  everyday life and economically.

When I got the chance to sit down with Dr. Anthony Fauci, I carefully thought about what I wanted clarity on, and the comments people had made to me, from why we weren't told to wear masks in the beginning to why I was hearing from sources back in March that this virus attacked the respiratory system when we now believe it actually goes after the circulatory system. 

And, of course, being a financial journalist, there were some questions  burning in every investor's mind: namely, when are we going to get a vaccine and how are the treatments and vaccine candidates looking from public companies?

So, here are some of the lessons I took away from my half-an-hour sit down with Dr. Fauci.

'Cautiously Optimistic' Is the Go-To Term

And, if you're watching and listening to my colleague and partner Jim Cramer,  then that's the term both medical experts and investors can agree on.

On our Street Lightning segments yesterday, Cramer told me, "Take the cue from what Fauci says."

He added that sometimes the science lets Fauci down, but that Fauci has "never let us down."

I had the opportunity to ask Fauci about Johnson & Johnson  (JNJ) - Get Johnson & Johnson Report moving up its human trial, Moderna's  (MRNA) - Get Moderna Inc. Report Phase 3 announcement and Regeneron's announcement that it will start human testing of its experimental antibody cocktail for COVID-19.

"Again, I use that terminology--because it's true--we're cautiously optimistic that the development of monoclonal antibodies by Regeneron  (REGN) - Get Regeneron Pharmaceuticals Inc. Report, by [Eli] Lilly, by a variety of other companies, would actually get us closer to a good and effective therapy," Fauci said when asked about Regeneron.

For investors, some of whom may still be reeling from Thursday's selloff, which saw the Dow plunge 7%, practicing cautious optimism in a market determined to speed along, hell or high-water, might--at least according to Cramer--be the way to approach your portfolio. Looking at you, Robinhood investors buying Hertz  (HTZ) - Get Hertz Global Holdings Inc Report right now.

Related: Jim Cramer's Message to Robinhood Investors Buying Hertz

We're All Learning Together

In situations that are high-stress, such as a pandemic, it's easy to get frustrated and try to blame someone as a problem since you can't really blame the little virus that's caused over 7.5 million people worldwide to get sick.

I specifically asked Fauci to clarify why masks are important, because--as I am staying (or summer-ing, as I jokingly say to my family) in South Carolina for the summer, I've noticed less and less people wearing masks or adhering to social distancing.

He told me that masks "...can protect you a certain degree, not a hundred percent, in protecting you from getting infected from someone who, either is breathing, or coughing, or sneezing, or singing or whatever it is in which the droplets or the aerosols go out. So masks work."

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But, if that's the case, why did it take so long for officials to tell us to wear masks?

"Well, the reason for that is that we were concerned the public health community, and many people were saying this, were concerned that it was at a time when personal protective equipment, including the N95 masks and the surgical masks, were in very short supply. And we wanted to make sure that the people namely, the health care workers, who were brave enough to put themselves in a harm way, to take care of people who you know were infected with the coronavirus and the danger of them getting infected," he explained to me.

And then there's the fact that we've heard so much back and forth around coronavirus symptoms. 

Now, here's a brief history lesson: Dr. Fauci was--and is now--the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases during the AIDS epidemic.

When I asked Fauci about the evolution of treatment for coronavirus, he told me, "I've quite frankly, never seen anything like it, where a single, well-characterized virus in individuals can have a range of manifestations, that go from being completely asymptomatic, no symptoms at all, to having a few symptoms that don't bother you much, to having symptoms enough to keep you home, to have symptoms enough to keep you in bed really feeling poorly for a couple of weeks, to have the symptoms and signs of having you go to a hospital, to then possibly getting intensive care, and then to dying and accounting for the over 115,000 deaths that we have in this country."

Watch: Dr. Fauci Says Asymptomatic Spread of COVID-19 Is Not Rare

So, I think it's safe to say everyone is learning about this virus together. Right or wrong. Investor or not.

Every State Is Different

No, but really.

I asked Fauci about the return of sports and his answer stood out to me, not just because I want to be in-person for at least one Dallas Cowboys game this year, but because there's one thing that has been left by the wayside: Every state is different.

From Sports Illustrated: What NFL Offseason Looks Like Amid Pandemic

Every state's response is different. Look at Georgia, for example. First state to open up. However, even though the media tends to focus on North Carolina, Texas and Arizona, Georgia actually reported 931 new cases on Thursday, which puts the state at 56,000 cases. That was the largest single-day spike since May 1. 

But, where places such as Houston considering new stay at home orders because of the uptick in coronavirus cases, Georgia governor Brian Kemp is lifting more COVID-19 restrictions, including ending the shelter-in-place orders for people over 65-years-old, who are more impacted by the virus.

"So you can't look at the United States just in a unit-dimensional way. It's very different if you're in an area like New York City, where you have a lot of people and you'd been hit very badly. Right now, they're doing much, much better. But if you were in a situation where you had a high degree of activity, versus a county, somewhere in Wyoming, with this very little infection, you've got to look at what's going on now. We know that, right now, there are several areas where there are upticks in infection. We've seen that places like California, places like Arizona, places like North Carolina, and others. And there are more than those states that are doing that. You have to be extra special careful," Fauci told me.

And I think this is something for investors to keep in mind, too. When we're looking at the overall picture, it can't be focused on just New York reopening, or the case declines in one area. We have to take into account the fact that every place is different. 

Well, now that I've given you my thoughts on my interview, you can watch it for yourself in the links below.

You can follow Katherine Ross on Twitter at @byKatherineRoss.

Read more from Katherine Ross here.