Dr. Anthony Fauci appeared for interviews Friday and dropped a grenade into the nation’s reopening conversation.
Stay-at-home orders intended to curb the spread of the coronavirus could end up causing “irreparable damage” if imposed for too long, White House health advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci told CNBC on Friday.
“I don’t want people to think that any of us feel that staying locked down for a prolonged period of time is the way to go,” Fauci said during an interview with CNBC’s Meg Tirrell on “Halftime Report.”
Indeed. The country has only been discussing this very topic for weeks now, as between 38.6 and 43 million Americans have been thrown into unemployment thanks directly to the coronavirus shutdown.
The discussion has not included Dr. Fauci, and he appears to have been sidelined from making public comments by the White House in recent days. During those same days, President Trump has increasingly called for states to lift restrictions and let the reopening begin.
During the same interview, Dr. Fauci poured some cold water on reopenings that are underway, but in that passive-aggressive way of doing so without being specific.
“In general, I think most of the country is doing it in a prudent way,” he said. “There are obviously some situations where people might be jumping over that. I just say please proceed with caution if you’re going to do that.”
Not helpful. Who is jumping ahead? Florida — which has not seen a spike despite dire media predictions that it would? Texas — which is crab-walking toward reopening while about 46% of its coronavirus deaths statewide have been in nursing homes? Or is California taking entirely too long? How about Michigan and the whimsical Gov. Whitmer?
People need to work. The economy crashes and a whole lot more people will die the longer the shutdowns drag on.
While some in the capital cocktail set see Dr. Fauci as a sex symbol, he has been a panic peddler during much of this crisis.
For instance, May 13, 2020: As states reopened, Dr. Fauci warned of “needless suffering and death” if states move too fast.
Unemployment was already well over 20 million by then, or roughly the whole population of the state of New York. A million of those newly unemployed are healthcare workers. Hospitals and medical practices have been creaking and threatening to collapse since early April.
Since then, we’ve blown past that unemployment number, past Florida, past Texas, to leave the equivalent of the entire population of California unemployed.
Plus or minus a million or two.
How, in what universe, can unemployment on this scale not cause “irreparable damage?”
Especially when an estimated 42% of these unemployed and their jobs are never ever ever getting back together?
Our energy sector went from powering everything to being vulnerable to foreign takeover in a flash.
Whole national job-creating companies have filed for bankruptcy or laid thousands of their workers off.
And the federal government is writing hot checks in the trillions every few weeks.
This is by definition “irreparable damage,” Dr. F.
I haven’t been too critical of Fauci up to this point. He’s an epidemiologist trying to prevent mass death from a virus. His job is not to worry about the economics.
But it’s looking increasingly like we need a second opinion, from another doctor who also has run a practice and therefore understands economics. As Sen. Rand Paul, who is a doctor, noted in Senate testimony in mid-May, Dr. Fauci isn’t the “be all end all” of this crisis. Dr. Fauci actually agreed. And he’s not.
The economic dimension of this crisis has long stayed in the back seat while the healthcare dimension took the wheel. That was reasonable in the beginning. It’s a pandemic, which is a medical crisis first and foremost.
They both need some time in the driver’s seat. We’ve flattened the curve. There’s no evidence at this point (it could change!) that reopening is causing serious spikes in new infections. We still haven’t come to grips with the facts on nursing home and assisted living facitlity-related coronavirus deaths nationwide. That discussion has not happened in any serious way.
Neither has the necessary discussion about suicides related to economic misery.
We’re past time for all that.
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