For some reason, Mark Zuckerberg conducted an interview with Dr. Anthony Fauci yesterday, and the longtime head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases had a lot of criticisms to share.
“It doesn’t do anything but reflect poorly on them,” Fauci said of the “bizarre” personal attacks he’s received from the White House. They have has included public criticism from Trump, an op-ed in USA Today, and even the distribution of anti-Fauci materials to the media by White House staff.
Fauci also went after the state and local officials who reopened too hastily.
“You have got to do it correctly. You can’t jump over steps, which is very perilous when you think about rebound. The proof of the pudding is, look what has happened. There really is no reason that we are having 40, 50, 60 thousand, other than we are not doing something correctly.”
The haste of local officials to reassure the public and reopen the economy is one of the factors that has fueled opposition to mask-wearing. Another is Facebook’s role in spreading misinformation, which Fauci did not bring up with Zuckerberg.
Live with Dr. Fauci, the nation's top infectious disease expert, discussing how to slow the spread of Covid.
Posted by Mark Zuckerberg on Thursday, July 16, 2020
Fauci directly addressed some of these conspiracies: “There has not been any indication that putting a mask on, and wearing a mask for a considerable period of time, has any deleterious effects on oxygen exchange.”
Fauci also reminded us that nobody’s perfect, as he stumbled a bit when he turned his fire onto young people.
“You have to have responsibility for yourself, but also a societal responsibility that your getting infected is not just you in a vacuum. You’re propagating the pandemic.”
That’s true of young people, but the nature of a societal responsibility is that everyone in society has one. Young people crowding into bars is unquestionably bad, but so are older people staging anti-mask protests and packing themselves into churches on Sunday. The decision to single out one group while ignoring the similar failures of the other group is bizarre and likely ineffective, as it’s not like older people shaming younger people has ever been an effective means of persuasion.
It also doesn’t take into account that decisions made by (generally older) politicians to reopen too soon and not provide a meaningful social safety net have forced (generally younger) service workers back into the workplace, where they’re more at risk of contracting and spreading the coronavirus.
Fauci actually implicitly made this point elsewhere in the conversation: “We should be looking at public health measures as a vehicle, or a gateway, to opening the country, not as the obstacle in the way, but the gateway.”
The public health measures he’s talking are systemic, not individual. They include closing down the bars where young people have been congregating and the workplaces they’ve been forced to return to, measures that would have a far greater effect on slowing the spread of COVID-19 than any public shaming of individual behavior possibly could.