White House coronavirus task force member Dr. Anthony Fauci has emerged as a popular cultural icon. The task force press conferences are one of the few ways Americans can get first-hand information before the fakes news media puts a spin on it. But by that same token, D. Fauci delivers a scientific perspective with apocalyptic overtones.
The question everyday people may want to consider is whether his dire predictions have earned him the nickname “Dr. Doom.” Or, is the esteemed infectious disease expert a necessary evil whose opinions should be considered among others?
During his recent appearance at the White House coronavirus task force press briefing, Fauci once again uttered doomsday language. At one point he said that contact tracing is “not going well” and that even a vaccine might not provide necessary herd immunity.
“We are facing a serious problem in certain areas. We have a very heterogeneous country, but heterogeneity does not mean that we are not intimately interconnected with each other. So, what goes on in one area of the country ultimately could have an effect on the other areas of the country,” Dr. Fauci said. “If we don’t extinguish the outbreak, sooner or later even ones that are doing well are going to be vulnerable to the spread.”
The inherent problem with the infectious disease expert’s position is that his goal appears to be to “extinguish” COVID-19. Other contagions prove time and time again that eradicating a virus may be a pipedream. The Centers for Diseases and Control points out that the 1918-1919 Influenza outbreak caused 500 million infections, 50 million deaths, including 675,000 Americans. More than 100 years later, “the flu” infects 56 million people, causes 740,000 hospitalizations, and results in upwards of 62,000 deaths annually.
That type of scientific reality tends to cast Dr. Fauci’s opinions as unrealistic. We all get the flu at some point and develop immunities. In all likelihood, COVID-19 could be similar. Although the distinguished expert’s dire warnings may or may not be realistic, his voice may be a necessary evil. Chastising young people for not following CDC guidelines such as social distancing and wearing masks may result in a continued slowing of the spread.
“The overwhelming majority of people who are now getting infected are young people, like the people that you see in the clips in the paper or out in the crowds enjoying themselves,” Dr. Fauci reportedly said. “The thing that you really need to realize, that when you do that you are part of a process, so if you get infected, you will infect someone else.”
In recent weeks, protests and riots across the country will inevitably cause a surge in infections. Small cities report gatherings in the hundreds, while major cities have been devastated by thousands-strong riots. The impact is already beginning to show up in data in states such as Minnesota where the George Floyd riots began. Minnesota started to see an uptick with 523 new cases reported Sunday, June 28, and many are bracing for a spike.
But the salient question about Dr. Fauci being a “necessary evil” is that we cannot count how many people do not join large gatherings and continue to practice CDC guidelines. His purely scientific doom-and-gloom approach does not necessarily consider the impact of plunging 20 million unemployed Americans into poverty. But he probably keeps enough fear alive to slow the spread in hopes a vaccine can protect our vulnerable community members.