The federal coronavirus response can be characterized by countless reversals and a sense of stasis, as the government espouses little effort to actually prevent its spread. One constant has been Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, hopping on every program and livestream he can to share directives for combatting the virus. On Monday night, Dr. Fauci appeared on The Daily Show with Trevor Noah, and discussed getting surgery on his vocal cords after blowing out his voice from talking “17-18 hours a day.”
Although we know significantly more about the pandemic than in March — indoor, poorly ventilated spaces are the most risky, outdoor spaces less so, and masks are among the best safeguard against catching the virus — the basic prevention measures have become even more politicized. President Trump and his allies have at best begrudgingly worn masks, actively discouraged their use as an impediment to freedom at worst. Dr. Fauci was also slow to endorse mask-wearing for the general public — a destructive call in retrospect that was apparently tailored to preserve the supply for doctors and nurses — but spends much of his interview with Noah bemoaning how public health directives have turned into a dumb culture war:
“Public health measures should be more of a gateway and a pathway to opening the country as opposed to the obstacle to opening the country. So what has evolved now is that, almost, people take sides, like wearing a mask or not is a political statement, and that’s really very unfortunate, totally unfortunate, because this is a purely public health issue. It should not be one against the other.”
He reiterates many of the same advice points as his first visit to the program back in March — to maintain social distancing and avoid large crowds and responsibly sanitize. But you can tell Fauci is frustrated by how he’s been cast as a political figure — a hero to resistance liberals and an adversary to the president, for simply giving the best advice available to him at the time:
“I’ve never had any political ideology that I’ve made public. I’m really just talking to you about public health. When I’m telling you to wear a mask, keep social distancing, avoid crowds, wash your hands, do things outdoors more than indoors—there’s nothing political about that. That’s a public health message that we know works.”
Elsewhere in the interview, he expands upon his ever-evolving role in the COVID-19 task force, how he was once a daily presence in official White House press briefings but has been sidelined in favor of contradictory information. He also discusses the possibility of a fall and winter spike — which, hey, could be very well underway — and measures we’ll need to continue to curb an even larger wave.
Earlier that same day, NIAD official William Crews resigned after a report linked him to blog posts published under a pseudonym on the far-right website Red State. Crews referred to Dr. Fauci as a “mask Nazi,” spread conspiracies about the pandemic’s origins, and suggested that officials responsible for its response should be executed. Guy can’t catch a break!