Fauci: Actually, large gatherings by July 4 are "entirely conceivable and possible"

Fauci realizes that the Texas Rangers are planning to allow full capacity for Opening Day, right? That’s 40,000+ fans in the stands on April 5, three months before Biden’s target date for all Americans to feel safe having small barbecues with friends for Independence Day.

I dare say the era in which people take Fauci’s and the CDC’s advice on socializing is rapidly drawing to a close. School districts will still listen to the experts on whether and how to reopen for bureaucratic ass-covering purposes but the average joe will be flying solo on gauging his or her personal risk of infection long before July 4, to the extent they aren’t already. The very fact that Fauci felt obliged to do clean-up for Biden here, transforming the president’s scenario of Independence Day cookouts from a grand aspiration to a bare minimum of what to expect, betrays a sense of anxiety among public-health experts. They’ve heard the criticism from colleagues like Leana Wen and Scott Gottlieb that they’re being too cautious. And they know that endlessly extending the timeline for normalcy ends up underselling the vaccine to skeptics.

So, the old standard: Everyone get vaccinated and we can barbecue on the 4th. The new standard: Everyone get vaccinated and we can at least barbecue on the 4th. Watch, then read on.

We’ve long since reached the point of diminishing returns from Fauci interviews, Phil Klein writes today:

Watching interviews with Anthony Fauci has become a cringeworthy experience. Journalists ask him questions on returning to normal as if he were some sort of grand high exalted mystic ruler who controls every aspect of human existence. On Sunday, Fauci told NBC that he couldn’t predict when people would be able to have indoor weddings.

What makes this increasingly obnoxious is not just the arbitrariness of Fauci’s pronouncements (he recently conceded that guidance on travel for fully vaccinated people was a “judgment call” by the CDC), but the deference that he and other health officials are granted by the media. Last week, when the CDC released new guidance on those who had been fully immunized, CNN infamously tweeted, “The CDC releases guidelines giving limited freedoms to people fully vaccinated against Covid-19.”

The public’s going to do what it wants to do, Klein reminds us, just as it did last spring when people began avoiding restaurants weeks *before* lockdowns were ordered. In a separate post, he noticed that Biden has also been casually extending the timeline for normalcy in public comments lately. Remember that before he took office the president called for everyone to wear masks during his first 100 days in office in a national effort to slow the spread while vaccinations ramped up. But yesterday he tweaked that, saying, “I urge — I urge all local docs and — and ministers and priests and every — to talk about why — why it’s important to get it — to get that vaccine, and even after that, until everyone is in fact vaccinated, to wear this mask.” Wear the mask until everyone is vaccinated?

Even after we’ve already reached herd immunity?

What sort of incentive to get immunized does that give someone who’s iffy on the vaccine but would love to return to a world where they don’t feel pressured to wear masks everywhere?

Here’s where I remind you again of Frank Luntz’s recent focus group with Republican vaccine skeptics that found the panel highly skeptical of further advice from Fauci, describing him as a “liar,” “flip-flopper” and “opportunistic.” Selling righties on the vaccine is a special challenge for a Democratic administration, particularly one that’s been accused by the last Republican president of having stolen the election from him. Team Joe should think hard at this point about whether they want Fauci to remain the face of the national sales effort as my guess is that he’s now doing more harm than good. People who like him are already gung ho to get vaccinated and don’t need to be convinced. It’s the holdouts, particularly on the right, who need persuading and the oracular reverence with which the media treats Fauci is likely doing more to alienate them than win them over. Maybe Rochelle Walensky would fare better, or some other expert like Vivek Murthy or Tom Frieden. But it’s hard to think of someone offhand who’d fare worse, at least with Republicans.

Here he is in another part of this morning’s interview congratulating himself for having been so honest all along. That’s a … surprising take considering that he was famously dishonest early about the utility of face masks, a “noble lie” he told to protect the supply of masks for health-care professionals, and then dishonest again later by his own admission about the threshold America would need to reach for herd immunity. What he means by “honesty,” I take it, is the fact that he refused to condone Trump’s mass rallies during the pandemic or to back up the former president on reopening aggressively when the infection rates didn’t warrant that. But there’s a reason why so many righties consider him a “flip-flopper” and a “liar.” Biden really should try someone else.