Dr. Anthony Fauci giveth, and he also taketh away — although not all that much, as it turns out. The director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) has become a voice of rational urgency in dealing with the coronavirus pandemic in the US. Yesterday in Congress, Fauci made the obvious observation that we had “failed” in preparing for the arrival of COVID-19 after it first emerged.
Today on MSNBC’s Morning Joe, however, Fauci offers a much more upbeat assessment of the situation, noting that testing capabilities are about to “escalate” significantly thanks to private-sector involvement. That will allow public-health organizations to properly track the spread of the disease, which has been difficult to quantify in the US. However, Fauci emphasizes that travel restrictions regarding China and now Europe will flatten the curve and were absolutely the right call to limit the “seeding” of American communities:
Dr. Fauci lays it out here plain and simple: @realDonaldTrump’s actions to ban travel to/from China and Europe, has saved, and will save, American lives—period. pic.twitter.com/eGghOu53VN
— Ken Farnaso (@KLF) March 13, 2020
The problem in Italy, Fauci says later, is that they didn’t take any aggressive measures at the beginning of the bell curve. The US may not have prepared its internal mitigation actions quickly enough, but the actions taken to keep new cases from coming in from the outside has substantially altered the bell curve in the US. “The new China is Europe,” Fauci emphasizes to the Morning Joe panel in defending the travel restrictions.
Fauci got corroboration from the World Health Organization on that point later in the day:
NEW: WHO director-General says that Europe has become the epicenter of the COVID-19 pandemic, "with more reported cases than the rest of the world combined, apart from China." https://t.co/kGtP4bA84J pic.twitter.com/gFYo2wyR8u
— ABC News (@ABC) March 13, 2020
Nevertheless, the curve will take place at some time here, and the disease will look like its getting worse before it gets better. Testing will quantify both its spread and relative mortality, but Fauci is more optimistic now that the US is catching up on its mitigation capabilities:
Dr. Fauci on coronavirus spreading during the next few weeks: "Two things we are looking for, A: Things are going to get worse before they get better, but B: What's happening now with many more tests going out very shortly … hopefully, we'll be able to blunt that peak." pic.twitter.com/GY7gBJc91V
— MSNBC (@MSNBC) March 13, 2020
Willie Geist managed to get Fauci to opine — indirectly — on news that Donald Trump has been exposed to a confirmed coronavirus patient. Both Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro and one of his aides tested positive for COVID-19 days after meeting and shaking hands with Trump at Mar-a-Lago last weekend, but the White House has claimed that Trump has no reason to get tested to see if he has contracted the virus. Geist pushed Fauci to say that Trump should get tested, but Fauci insisted that it’s a call for Trump’s medical team to make.
“But generally speaking,” Geist pressed, “if I were standing next to someone who had been diagnosed with coronavirus, should I isolate myself and find a test as well?”
“Yes,” Fauci said.
For the most part, though, Fauci sounds positive and optimistic about the current direction of US policy and action. It’s not going to be a picnic, Fauci says, “but we will get through this.”
Watch the entire segment here. It’s easy to see why Fauci has become such a go-to voice for the media, and why all sides can take some heart in his carefully blunt manner.
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