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Straight-talking Fauci explains outbreak to a worried nation

If Dr. Anthony Fauci says it, you’d be smart to listen. As the coronavirus has upended daily life across the globe, Fauci has become the trusted voice in separating fact and fiction.

Posted: Mar 14, 2020 10:38 PM

WASHINGTON (AP) — If Dr. Anthony Fauci says it, you’d be smart to listen. As the coronavirus has upended daily life across the globe, Fauci has become the trusted voice in separating fact and fiction.

The fear and confusion of outbreaks aren’t new to Fauci, who in more than 30 years has handled HIV, SARS, MERS, Ebola and even the nation’s 2001 experience with bioterrorism — the anthrax attacks.

Fauci’s political bosses — from Ronald Reagan to Donald Trump — have let him do the explaining because he’s frank and understandable, translating complex medical information into everyday language while neither exaggerating nor downplaying.

If you quizzed former presidents about who influenced their views on infectious diseases, “Tony’s name would be first on the list, and you wouldn’t have to remind them,” said former health secretary Mike Leavitt, who worked with Fauci on bird flu preparedness.

At 79, the government’s top infectious disease expert is by age in the demographic group at high risk for COVID-19. But he’s working round the clock and getting only a few hours of sleep. He’s a little hoarse from all the talking about coronavirus, and he’ll be on the TV news shows Sunday. Yet his vigor belies his age, and he credits it to exercise, including running. As of Thursday, he had not been tested for coronavirus. The National Institutes of Health, where he works, said that’s because he hasn’t needed to be.

Fauci uses a metaphor from one of the fastest-moving sports to describe his strategy on the outbreak. “You skate not to where the puck is, but to where the puck is going to be,” he told a House committee.

So he’s simultaneously advocating containment to try to keep the virus from spreading, mitigation to check its damage once it gets loose in a community, immediate efforts to increase testing, and short-term and long-term science to develop treatments and vaccines. He’s hoping a dynamic response will put the nation where the puck ends up going.

“It’s unpredictable,” he said. “Testing now is not going to tell you how many cases you’re going to have. What will tell you ... will be how you respond to it with containment and mitigation.”

Serving a president who until recently dismissed coronavirus by comparing it to seasonal flu, Fauci has been even-handed in public. He’s won the respect of Democratic and Republican lawmakers, along with Trump administration officials.

Almost in matter-of-fact fashion Fauci acknowledged to Congress in recent days that the government system wasn’t designed for mass testing of potential infections. “It is a failing, let’s admit it,” he told lawmakers.

But he also supported President Donald Trump’s restrictions on travel from Europe. It’s part of the containment strategy, he explained. “It was pretty compelling that we needed to turn off the source from that region,” he said.

The threat of a pandemic has been on Fauci’s mind for years. Many scientists thought it would come from the flu, but it turned out to be coronavirus.

Fauci was unflappable answering questions for hours from the House Oversight and Reform committee last week __ except if there was any hint of questioning his scientific integrity.

“I served six presidents and I have never done anything other than tell the exact scientific evidence and made policy recommendations based on the science and the evidence,” he said.

Democrats and Republicans have welcomed his approach.

“The scientists I’ve spoken with in committee see you as the lead man, and I believe most of America does,” Rep. Clay Higgins, R-La., told Fauci.

Democratic Rep. Stephen Lynch of Massachusetts praised Fauci for accurately stating that a vaccine would not be available in a matter of months, contrary to what Trump has suggested at times.

“You have a certain level of credibility and honesty that I think ... should be persuasive to the American people,” Lynch told him.

Fauci’s candor hasn’t stopped Trump from praising him. “Tony has been doing a tremendous job working long, long hours,” the president said Friday at a Rose Garden event.

Anthony Stephen Fauci was born in Brooklyn, New York, on Christmas Eve, 1940, into an Italian-American family. President George W. Bush, who in 2008 awarded Fauci the Presidential Medal of Freedom, noted that even as a boy he showed an independent streak: In a neighborhood full of Brooklyn Dodgers fans, Fauci rooted for the Yankees.

Fauci became head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases in 1984, when the nation was in the throes of the AIDS crisis. He’s recalled the huge frustration of caring for dying patients in the NIH’s hospital with nothing to offer.

After hours, he’d chat with then-Surgeon General C. Everett Koop about what scientists were learning about AIDS, influencing Koop’s famous 1986 report educating Americans about the disease.

In 1990, when AIDS activists swarmed the NIH to protest what they saw as government indifference, Fauci brought them to the table. Fast forward, and he helped to shape Trump’s initiative to end HIV in the U.S.

Although he’s spent his career in government, Fauci doesn’t seem to have lost the human touch — and that may be part of the key to his success as a communicator.

During the 2014 Ebola outbreak, many Americans panicked when a U.S. nurse got infected by a patient she was caring for, a traveler from West Africa. Ebola can cause deadly bleeding.

Fauci confronted those fears by setting a personal example. When the NIH hospital released that nurse, not only did he say she wasn’t contagious, he gave her a hug before TV cameras to prove he was not worried.

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Illinois Coronavirus Cases

(Widget updates once daily at 7 p.m. CT)

Cases: 1288844

Reported Deaths: 23865
CountyCasesDeaths
Cook5163999792
DuPage855231244
Will70961955
Lake64047962
Kane54919750
Winnebago30606457
Madison29676513
St. Clair27035500
McHenry26618277
Peoria20652277
Champaign19604136
Sangamon17522229
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Rock Island14137303
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Kendall1216290
LaSalle11634228
Macon10130189
DeKalb9120118
Vermilion9003125
Adams8141116
Williamson7179125
Whiteside6738162
Boone630871
Ogle569578
Clinton569390
Grundy557971
Coles549294
Knox5258136
Jackson483363
Henry467261
Effingham466471
Macoupin456681
Livingston455083
Stephenson446379
Marion4379114
Woodford432962
Franklin431470
Monroe430190
Jefferson4129118
Randolph408384
Lee391449
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Logan359856
Fulton357250
Bureau351279
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Perry312959
Fayette312754
Iroquois288964
Jersey260448
Douglas254135
McDonough252742
Saline248053
Lawrence238625
Shelby224137
Union222840
Crawford208825
Bond196024
Cass194424
Pike175551
Clark175032
Jo Daviess174624
Warren172646
Wayne172451
Hancock171730
Richland170840
Carroll169436
Ford168346
White166226
Edgar165839
Washington162525
Moultrie156025
Clay147042
Greene142032
Piatt141014
Mason139941
Johnson138614
De Witt136823
Mercer134633
Wabash134112
Massac130939
Cumberland127819
Menard117511
Jasper114017
Marshall96617
Hamilton81815
Schuyler6975
Brown6846
Pulaski6787
Stark60123
Edwards54912
Henderson51914
Calhoun5072
Scott4671
Alexander46210
Gallatin4534
Putnam4403
Hardin36512
Pope3053
Out of IL10
Unassigned02295

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

(Widget updates once daily at 8 p.m. ET)

Cases: 701971

Reported Deaths: 13187
CountyCasesDeaths
Marion958051716
Lake51105939
Allen38867670
Hamilton34212404
St. Joseph33638539
Elkhart27021431
Vanderburgh22016393
Tippecanoe21602212
Johnson17408373
Porter17157297
Hendricks16711310
Clark12640190
Madison12287337
Vigo12139244
Monroe11336166
LaPorte10760204
Delaware10288184
Howard9606211
Kosciusko9051113
Hancock7922139
Bartholomew7839153
Warrick7671155
Floyd7533176
Wayne6871198
Grant6755168
Boone6517100
Morgan6362138
Dubois6068117
Marshall5743108
Dearborn566975
Cass5668102
Henry5558100
Noble536983
Jackson491869
Shelby476895
Lawrence4324118
Gibson426889
Harrison426070
Montgomery416286
Clinton415053
DeKalb405483
Huntington376480
Whitley374939
Miami371365
Knox364889
Steuben361357
Putnam351760
Wabash345877
Jasper344846
Adams337652
Ripley333268
Jefferson310779
White307154
Daviess288699
Wells284780
Decatur278592
Fayette276962
Greene269985
Posey268133
Scott259853
Clay252044
LaGrange250970
Randolph234380
Washington230329
Spencer227431
Jennings224447
Fountain207445
Sullivan207342
Starke201152
Owen191456
Fulton190439
Jay185529
Carroll185220
Perry179136
Orange176253
Rush170224
Vermillion165643
Franklin165135
Tipton160843
Parke143716
Blackford132631
Pike130034
Pulaski112945
Newton102834
Brown99340
Crawford96914
Benton95613
Martin82215
Warren78715
Switzerland7698
Union69510
Ohio55511
Unassigned0405