Dr. Fauci at Harvard University Forum

On Wednesday afternoon this week I watched a Pubic Forum at Harvard University broadcast by CNN, “When Public Health Means Business.” Dr. Anthony Fauci was the principal speaker and it turned out to be one of the best and most comprehensive presentations I’ve heard from him. So often on TV, interviews are rushed for time with answers cut short for other questions or commercials. This time, Dr. Fauci had an hour to present his thoughts in full without interruption.

Fauci was joined by Harvard University President Lawrence S. Bacow; Michelle A. Williams, Dean of Faculty of the T.H. Chan School of Public Health; and CNN Chief Medical Correspondent Sanjay Gupta. Fauci responded to questions from Gupta and faculty from the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

Dr. Sanjay Gupta is widely known as a medical correspondent at CNN. He’s also Associate Chief of Neurosurgery at Grady Memorial Hospital in Atlanta, and Associate Professor at Emory University’s Department of Neurosurgery. Busy guy, as he’ll describe brain surgery he did just this week that was complicated by issues with COVID testing.

Dr. Anthony Fauci is an immunologist and lately a household name. He serves on the White House Coronavirus Task Force, has been Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIH) since 1984, and is Chief of the Laboratory of Immunoregulation at NIH. He was instrumental during the AIDS crisis and has advised every presidents from both parties since Ronald Reagan, including Donald Trump now. He has authored, coauthored, or edited more than 1,100 scientific publications including textbooks. Dr. Fauci maintains an active medical practice with patients in addition to all the public health work he’s doing.

The forum was rich with information and covered many important points. I encourage you to watch the video below. A few things stand out in particular:

The War on Science &
Death Threats Against Fauci

Early in the forum Fauci described death threats against him and his family, and harassment his adult daughters receiving — all symptoms of a rejection we see by some against science generally and the politicization of this pandemic specifically. (It should be noted that Fauci isn’t alone in getting threats. State and local health officials are being threatened across the country. Many have resigned, retired or even been fired. It’s like threatening the fireman trying to rescue you from the flames.)

A while later in the interview, Fauci described very effectively what he thinks this apparent rejection stems from. Fauci believes it’s broader then a rejection of science, per se, or of him personally. It’s a distrust and rejection of authority and government in general.

I hadn’t considered this perspective but it makes sense to me. There is a distrust and rejection of government, authority and authority figures — and for good reason. Working people get screwed every which way but loose. I just wish those opposing science could be a bit more discerning in who and what they reject. To wage war on science is throwing the proverbial baby out with the bath water. We need science! Especially during the most serious pandemic in a hundred years.

We Don’t Need to Lock Down Again

Contrary to Trump’s denial and minimizing of the pandemic, Fauci emphasized as did Dr. Birx over the weekend that we are in serious trouble! He compared our “lockdown” here in the U.S. to what other countries did. They did better because they were more coordinated and uniform on a country-wide basis. In the United States we’ve been all over the map with different areas doing different things. Some areas did well in flattening the curve and controlling the virus, but the country overall did not. Some areas never clamped down while other areas eased up and opened before meeting the thresholds laid out by the CDC. Further complicating matters, large numbers of bored individuals threw all caution to the wind. And finally some rejected precautions altogether based on politics. (And, yes, I’ll add that the BLM protests probably added to the spread as well.)

Despite the current levels of threat, Fauci emphasized we do not need to go back into lockdown again with all the economic and social ramifications. Instead, paraphrasing in my words, we need a uniform national policy versus the localized patchwork we have now — and we need individuals to take personal responsibility for their behavior. Instead of lockdown, Fauci asserts that everyone needs to do just 5 things consistently. We’ve heard these all a thousand times and they aren’t that difficult:

  1. Wear a face mask in public.
  2.  Keep a distance of at least 6 feet from others (physical distancing).
  3. Avoid crowded indoor settings, such as bars. Outdoors is always best!
  4. Stay away from large gatherings of any kind, indoors or outdoors.
  5. Wash hands often (20 seconds is best).

The Full Hour-Long Forum

This video is the public forum in its entirety. It runs an hour and nine minutes (1:09) but will be time well spent if you watch. If you can’t, I link to a few excerpts below.

Excerpts from the Forum

The following are a few brief excerpts that CNN has posted on its Twitter feed and website.

Dr. Gupta described a problem he had with COVID testing of a patient while doing brain surgery just this week. Fauci conceded that the testing situation in this country is “unacceptable. Period.”

Dr. Fauci talked about the death threats and harassment of his family.

In this clip, Fauci said what he thinks is behind the ‘War on Science’ in this country.

This tweet doesn’t play a video clip directly but takes you to an article at CNN where you can watch Dr. Fauci speak on the severity of the pandemic in the U.S. versus other countries. (Click on image.)

While Trump persists in minimizing the crisis and insisting the U.S. is doing better than other countries, Gupta and Harvard faculty pointed out that the U.S. has just 5% of the world’s population but accounts for almost 25% of COVID cases and deaths worldwide.

Finally, an article CNN has posted includes a video clip from the forum where Fauci explained how people without symptoms are contributing to the spread — hence, again, the need to follow the 5 guidelines.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch…

With all the scientific power we can bring to bear, it saddens me that at this particular moment in history we have this particular leader, a person singularly unsuited for the magnitude of the crisis. Thousands are paying with their lives and livelihoods. And all of us are at risk. 

New projections from the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation suggest we could reach 300,000 deaths in the U.S. by December 31 if we continue our present course.

Wednesday afternoon, the same day as the Harvard forum, Trump held another of his Coronavirus press briefings — sans medical experts, it should be noted — where he asserted again that “it’s going away” and for good measure he added a false claim of childhood immunity that the data refutes. Video above.

At the rate we’re going, I hope we don’t exceed 300,000 deaths!

Title image: DonkeyHotey. Licence

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