Fauci: Death threats are sign of anti-science sentiment

Suggests country is not rowing together to fight coronavirus

ANTHONY FAUCI, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, is receiving death threats while working on mitigating the spread of COVID-19.

“Getting death threats for me and my family and harassing my daughters, to the point where I have to get security is just — I mean, it’s amazing,” Fauci said Wednesday during an interview organized by Harvard’s School of Public Health with CNN’s Dr. Sanjay Gupta.

“I wouldn’t have imagined in my wildest dreams that people who object to things that are pure public health principles, are so set against it and don’t like what you and I say, namely in the world of science, that they actually threaten you,” Fauci said.

Fauci has advised six presidents while serving as the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases since 1984. He has led responses to the AIDS epidemic, Ebola spread, and avian flu. He agreed with Gupta that the US has the worst coronavirus outbreak in the world, a point President Trump has disputed, most recently this past weekend in a tweet that said infections are up because testing has increased.

The virus has infected 4.8 million people in the US over the past five months and killed 160,000 people. “The numbers don’t lie,” Fauci said.

Fauci said the anti-science sentiment in the country is what has made uniform response to the virus difficult nationwide. “There is a degree of anti-science feeling in this country, and I think it is not just related to science. It’s almost related to authority and a mistrust in authority that spills over,” Fauci said, mentioning people who refuse to wear masks or politicize the wearing of them.

Fauci said most countries responded to the coronavirus by launching prevention efforts at the local level until infection rates went down to a low baseline level. Only then did those countries begin the reopening process, he said. The United States, he said, did not follow the same approach. “We came down to a plateau of 20,000 new cases per day. That’s not a good baseline. We have to get further down,” he said.

While many parts of the United States did a good job controlling the virus, Fauci said, other states did not. He likened the country to his daughter’s college crew team. On a crew team, he said, everyone needs to be rowing together. If one person gets a cramp and is out of sync, then winning isn’t an option, he said.

“So long as you have any member of society, any demographic group who’s not seriously trying to get to the end game of suppressing this, it will continue to smolder and smolder,” Fauci said.

He said the country doesn’t need to go into another shutdown to stop the spread, but it requires communities to be united in following social distancing and mask-wearing guidelines. “You can still reopen the economy and stop surges from happening,” he said.

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Sarah Betancourt

Reporter, CommonWealth

About Sarah Betancourt

Sarah Betancourt is a bilingual journalist reporting across New England. Prior to joining Commonwealth, Sarah was a reporter for The Associated Press in Boston, and a correspondent with The Boston Globe and The Guardian. She has written about immigration, social justice, and health policy for outlets like NBC, The Boston Institute for Nonprofit Journalism, and the New York Law Journal. Sarah has reported stories such as a national look at teacher shortages, how databases are used by police departments to procure information on immigrants, and uncovered the spread of an infectious disease in children at a family detention center. She has covered the State House, local and national politics, crime and general assignment.

Sarah received a 2018 Investigative Reporters and Editors Award for her role in the ProPublica/NPR story, “They Got Hurt at Work and Then They Got Deported,” which explored how Florida employers and insurance companies were getting out of paying workers compensation benefits by using a state law to ensure injured undocumented workers were arrested or deported. Sarah attended Emerson College for a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Communication, and Columbia University for a fellowship and Master’s degree with the Stabile Center for Investigative Journalism.

About Sarah Betancourt

Sarah Betancourt is a bilingual journalist reporting across New England. Prior to joining Commonwealth, Sarah was a reporter for The Associated Press in Boston, and a correspondent with The Boston Globe and The Guardian. She has written about immigration, social justice, and health policy for outlets like NBC, The Boston Institute for Nonprofit Journalism, and the New York Law Journal. Sarah has reported stories such as a national look at teacher shortages, how databases are used by police departments to procure information on immigrants, and uncovered the spread of an infectious disease in children at a family detention center. She has covered the State House, local and national politics, crime and general assignment.

Sarah received a 2018 Investigative Reporters and Editors Award for her role in the ProPublica/NPR story, “They Got Hurt at Work and Then They Got Deported,” which explored how Florida employers and insurance companies were getting out of paying workers compensation benefits by using a state law to ensure injured undocumented workers were arrested or deported. Sarah attended Emerson College for a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Communication, and Columbia University for a fellowship and Master’s degree with the Stabile Center for Investigative Journalism.

More testing and the development of a vaccine would also help, Fauci said. He said that having widespread and accurate tests for COVID-19 with results available in just minutes would meet his definition of a breakthrough. “You could do it in schools and tell if someone is infected or not,” he said.

Fauci also addressed the racial disparities exposed by COVID-19. Fauci called it a “double negative disparity,” saying that African Americans, Latinos, and Native Americans traditionally work in jobs that don’t allow them to work from behind a computer, safe from the human interaction that spreads the virus.

“Because of the social determinants of health that are decades in the making, minorities, especially African Americans, have a greater prevalence in underlying conditions that leads to severe outcomes,” Fauci said, pointing to high rates of diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and hypertension among black Americans.