I listen to Dr. Anthony Fauci, particularly when he is standing up against the Trump administration, because he is a doctor and a scientist, and because doctors and scientists ought to be in control of a national campaign to defeat the pandemic. Politicians ought to follow their lead and help the medical scientists, doctors, hospitals and nurses in a unified campaign to protect the public from the virus.
This seems simple enough for almost anyone to understand. But tragically, we elected as president a man who could probably sell the Brooklyn Bridge again and again but he is unfit to hold the office of president of the United States. And so, rather than lead us in a unified campaign against the worst pandemic in a century, he has opposed any national campaign in an utterly absurd effort to evade responsibility for the pandemic, when nobody blamed him for it. But, at 12:30 a.m. on September 26, 206,899 people have died of Covid-19, many of them (estimates vary), but a great many of them might have been saved if President Donald Trump had not obstructed testing and every other aspect of a national campaign to fight this pandemic, unlike every other civilized country in the world not in the thrall of authoritarian regimes.
“Strongmen” are deeply threatened by anything that cannot be defeated by state violence.
The pandemic has revealed, if Trump’s election and post-election behavior has not been enough, a giant fracture in American society. It’s been long known by any citizen who has had reason to question a governmental decision that whenever special business interests are publicly challenged, self-righteousness often blinds those special interests to any larger concern. This doesn’t manifest in corporate consultants’ smooth presentations or lawyers’ rhetoric of Reason before the elected decision makers, but in the irrational anger proponents often have against any defense of public interests or the Public Trust.
The war Donald Trump, the public goon for Finance, Insurance, and Real Estate corporate interests, is waging against the Public Health institutions and leaders is just one severe example.
How dare they close our restaurants and bars in Florida, the Florida governor says. We’re gonna have a great Super Bowl.
How can they possibly imagine that they can open their restaurants and bars without spreading the pandemic, say the Public Health officials.
And the poor, cowering Americans, wondering which side to conform to, must decide in the November election whether they are more afraid of the limited freedom of science, medicine, education and the generally liberal attitudes that adhere to them, or fascism, corporate domination of all aspects of society. For too many Americans, corporate domination of everything is already a long-established reality, and that domination doesn't have a shred of democracy in it.
A vote against corporate fascism could restore some courage and some honesty to political leadership that would help fight against fascism in the name of democracy, even though, as Churchill said, “Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all the others.”
We will definitely not be out of the weeds with a Biden presidency but we might be able to reach down and get our hands around a few roots and be able to pull them out. -- blj
Fauci to a Meddling HHS Official: ‘Take a Hike’
The nation’s top public-health expert addresses political interference in the COVID-19 response, but urges Americans to focus on the winter ahead.
Alexis C. Madrigal
Yesterday, after weeks of reports about political interference in the efforts of government scientists and public-health experts to inform Americans about the pandemic, Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, directly addressed the two Trump-administration officials at the center of the recent controversy: Michael Caputo, a spokesperson for the Department of Health and Human Services, and Caputo’s former science adviser, Paul Alexander, who attempted to censor what scientists, including Fauci, said about the coronavirus.
“Caputo enabled Alexander,” Fauci told me over email. “Alexander is the one who directly tried to influence the CDC (he may have succeeded, I cannot really say) and even me (I told him to go take a hike).”
Fauci’s comments came after his appearance at The Atlantic Festival yesterday evening.
As first reported by Politico, Alexander tried to directly intervene in the publication of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s well-known publication Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, and wrote scorching emails about CDC officials. He also tried to prevent Fauci from advocating for children to wear masks. Caputo ranted on Facebook Live about “deep state” operatives in the public-health infrastructure.
The interference from Caputo’s team had drawn sharp rebukes from the public-health community, especially as it does indeed appear to have been at least partly successful at influencing the CDC’s messaging. Caputo is now on medical leave, and Alexander was dismissed from HHS last week. (Alexander and HHS did not immediately return requests for comment.)
At the festival, Fauci urged Americans to maintain faith in the nation’s public-health institutions, despite the battles between political appointees at HHS and CDC researchers. “I think we could put that behind us right now,” he said. “I would trust the CDC, and I would trust the FDA.”
Fauci’s message conveyed a new level of urgency about the challenges ahead. Two weeks ago, he told The Atlantic that the country had to get new daily cases down to 10,000 over “the next few weeks” to guard against surges in the winter, when containment will be even harder in many parts of the country as the weather grows colder. Cases, however, have remained near that 40,000-a-day plateau. There are signs that some states, such as Wisconsin, may be on the verge of bigger outbreaks. Time is running out to bring down viral spread.
How might the U.S. get those cases down? The path is well known, and Fauci ticked off the public-health mantras: ubiquitous masking, physical distancing, avoiding crowds, doing things outdoors when possible, and washing your hands. What’s less clear is how anything might change in the U.S. over the next few months, because public-health officials have long been saying that these things were necessary to constrain the virus. Fauci pointed out that their advice continues to be met with furious resistance and violent rhetoric from America’s right-wing fringe. “People have been threatening me as a public-health person, literally threatening me and my family,” Fauci said, “because I’m saying we should be doing public-health things like wearing a mask and physical distancing, as if I’m doing something that is harmful to them … not that the virus is hurting us.”
Fauci is much more optimistic about the development of a vaccine, which has progressed at an unprecedented speed. He cited the large-scale, Phase 3 clinical trials currently under way in the U.S. “The results that we have actually do look good,” he said. (One trial, AstraZeneca’s, remains partly on hold after two participants developed serious neurological illnesses.)
The federal government’s investments in vaccine development and production are a bright spot in the American response, which otherwise has been uncoordinated, chaotic from the top down, and predicated on pinning blame on individual states. By contrast, Operation Warp Speed, a name Fauci often decries because it sounds reckless, has been well funded, organized, and effective. In normal circumstances, vaccine makers would wait until after clinical trials conclude to begin manufacturing, but government funds have allowed them to begin over the past several months. “If we get an answer, let’s say, November, December—it’s possible it could be earlier, but I think it’s going to be likely November, December,” Fauci said, “we can then start vaccinating people, starting with the health-care workers, … the elderly, and those with underlying conditions.”
The Trump administration’s political rhetoric about vaccine development has raised alarm among other public-health experts. In the lead-up to the election, Trump has begun teasing that a vaccine could be available in weeks. Some have wondered whether the design of the current trials, released after substantial public pressure, will actually reveal the information that’s needed about these new vaccines. “The trials need to focus on the right clinical outcome—whether the vaccines protect against moderate and severe forms of COVID-19—and be fully completed,” wrote Eric Topol, a molecular-medicine professor at Scripps Research, and Peter Doshi, a professor at the University of Maryland School of Pharmacy, in a New York Times op-ed yesterday.
People across the political spectrum also are expressing uncertainty about taking the vaccine, which could blunt the positive effects of its availability.
So, as we approach winter, there are two wildly different stories to tell about what might happen. In the storybook ending, a vaccine becomes available, more testing reduces the number of contagious people, and the country brings the virus under control. In the darker scenario, vaccines are delayed, or even if one arrives, few people accept it as safe. Testing is ineffective, and collapsing social cohesion leads to less adherence to simple, effective public-health measures.
Throw in a presidential election, flu season, climate chaos, rampant misinformation online, and the path the country may end up on is not at all clear. “What the general public needs is a message that’s consistent, and that they can believe,” Fauci said. “And what’s happened, unfortunately—and I think you’d have to be asleep not to realize this—is that we are living in a very divisive society right now; there’s no doubt about that … It’s politically charged, and what’s happened is that public-health issues and public-health recommendations have taken on a we-versus-them approach.”
Can America’s science-and-technology infrastructure save us from a crumbling politics of grievance and anger? Not even a public servant with a record like Fauci’s can predict that.