Fauci: You need to realize that we as a country can’t be doing the kinds of things we were doing a few months ago

This is obviously true if you’re following the news about the disease’s spread but still sobering to hear it put this way. I wonder who the target audience was. The general public, sure. But maybe also his boss:

Trump has spent much of the past four days tending to campaign benefactors and preoccupied with his own political future. He has used those settings to complain about what he considers to be coronavirus hysteria in the media and overreaction by financial markets.

“It’s not that big of a deal,” Trump said at one of the events, according to people who heard the comments…

Doug Deason, a Trump donor in attendance, said the president shook almost every hand in sight. “What he keyed in on in his remarks is you’ve just got to live your life,” Deason said. “He’s out there shaking hands.”

That’s precisely the opposite of Fauci’s message here, which is “It’s time for disruption.” Watch, then read on.

I’m guessing that was also aimed at slow-footed local officials in hot spots like Seattle, who are merely “considering cancellation of major public events” even though they already have an outbreak on their hands of an estimated 1,100 infections and possibly much more. Washington state is currently at level two of a five-level system of potential public health actions; canceling events doesn’t happen until they reach level four. They should have been at level four a week ago to try to slow this down.

Prepare for disruptions at the local hospital too, needless to say:

The head of the CDC testified today that public health labs are also understaffed, with no surge capacity, so efficient testing of everyone who needs it will remain a problem even after tests are widely available. Making a test that works is one thing, having personnel to conduct them is something else.

I wonder if Fauci was also thinking of idiotic partisan battles among members of Congress when he said we can’t go on with business as usual. I can’t believe we’re actually having skirmishes about whether it’s racist to call the virus “Chinese” at a moment when the country’s bracing for an unmanageable influx of desperately ill people into hospitals:

Call it coronavirus, “Chinese coronavirus,” “Wuhan virus,” COVID-19, or anything else. Anyone who’s focused on terminology isn’t as focused on the threat as they need to be. Starting with the Speaker of the House.

I’m becoming a fatalist about all this, though. Some people really are listening to experts like Fauci and scaling back their risky activities; the sharp decline in air passengers is proof. Other people just aren’t going to believe that this thing is real until next month when there are doctors on CNN talking about having to make hard decisions about which patients get the limited number of ventilators available and which don’t. We’ll all see the wisdom in “social distancing” eventually, however belatedly and ineffectually. It’s just going to take some blood on the floor to make it happen.

Which is usually how it works with otherwise foreseeable crises.

One small example of Americans soon not doing the kind of things they were doing a few months ago is attending major sports events. It seems very likely now that some March Madness games will be played before empty stands, especially as the month wears on and cases balloon nationally. The NBA will end up locking fans out too in time. LeBron James said a few days ago that he wouldn’t play games in an empty arena even though fans stuck at home could use the distraction of the games on TV to take their minds off their troubles. Today he reversed himself, though, claiming that he didn’t understand initially when he was asked about this that the stands might be empty because of a virus scare. Now he seems more resigned to it. Watch below.

By the way, we’re now up to 971 *known* cases nationally and 30 deaths as I write this at 7 p.m. ET. It was just two weeks ago that Trump announced there were only 15 known cases. Two weeks from now, who knows.