In any week over the past 10 months, Anthony S. Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, could be recognized for rising above and beyond the call of duty and enduring malicious slurs and threats from right-wingers as he labors to combat covid-19 and educate the public. On Friday, in an interview with CBS News radio, he spoke with remarkable candor and courage. Asked about the efficacy of mask-wearing, and about how seldom masks appear to have been worn in the White House, Fauci said, “We had a superspreader event in the White House" — the Sept. 26 Rose Garden ceremony announcing Judge Amy Coney Barrett’s nomination to the Supreme Court — "and it was in a situation where people were crowded together and were not wearing masks. So the data speak for themselves.”
Saying it unequivocally — the White House is responsible for the infections of a slew of people — is critical. It is only when the facts are clearly understood that politicians can be held accountable.
Fauci also rebutted President Trump’s false claim of a “cure," saying, “I think you really have to depend on what you mean by a ‘cure,’ because that’s a word that leads to a lot of confusion. We have good treatments for people with advanced disease who are in the hospital.” He added that a lingering cough, which Trump appears to have, is not uncommon and that it may or may not show he is still shedding the virus.
The implications of Fauci’s comments are plain, albeit painful. Trump and Vice President Pence recklessly exposed others to a deadly disease. Trump has never provided direct evidence to the Commission on Presidential Debates of a negative test. Trump’s recklessness also put at risk everyone involved in the Oct. 1 presidential debate, including his own prep team, former vice president Joe Biden, the audience and anyone who might have come in close contact with him. Trump’s subsequent behavior — riding in a sealed car with Secret Service agents so he could wave to supporters outside Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, comparing covid-19 to the flu, taking off his mask before entering the White House, going to the Oval Office while highly contagious and then planning public events during the up-to-20-day time period the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends a patient remain quarantined — shows that he remains a public menace.
Without Barrett’s participation, the unmasked, non-socially-distanced rollout of her nomination might not have occurred. Barrett seems intent on appearing at her Senate Judiciary Committee hearing Monday, even as Republican members refuse to be tested, apparently for fear that a positive covid-19 result would delay the rush to confirmation. Sens. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) and Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa) have both declined to be tested. They act with the same cavalier disregard for human life shown by Trump and Pence.
Unfortunately, the so-called party of life is instead the party of power at all costs. Fauci should remind the country day in and day out of what Republicans refuse to acknowledge: A negative coronavirus test does not mean you cannot infect others; mask-wearing and social distancing provide substantial protection; and this is a very serious disease that has already killed more than 213,000 Americans.
For his speaking with precision and candor, we say well done, Dr. Fauci.