Last week, Hugh Hewitt asked Dr. Anthony Fauci point blank whether his credibility and persuasiveness is so tainted in the eyes of so many Americans that he's no longer an effective messenger on matters related to the COVID pandemic – and should therefore step aside. Hewitt cited numerous contradictions and apparent "noble lies" during the exchange, but Fauci predictably rejected the premise of the question. The reality is, however, that among those Americans who are not hardcore Fauci fans or restriction enthusiasts, America's most famous doctor is an impediment to convincing the unconvinced on actions like vaccination, for instance. We've highlighted focus groups that have demonstrated how problematic it is to have Fauci as the foremost voice of the public health establishment. Pollster Frank Luntz has been practically begging Fauci to take a back seat for months, but the doctor is seemingly giving more media interviews than ever. How's this comment going to go over, I wonder?
Margaret Brennan: “We can gather for Christmas, or it’s just too soon to tell?”— Jerry Dunleavy (@JerryDunleavy) October 3, 2021
Fauci: “You know, Margaret, it’s just too soon to tell. We’ve just gotta concentrating on continuing to get those numbers down, & not try to jump ahead by weeks or months...”pic.twitter.com/535eSKq8aN
I realize that this is just hyper-cautious Fauci being hyper-cautious Fauci, essentially avoiding the question by saying that we need to take one step at a time (see update). But given his phrasing, many people will hear, "we might again ask you to avoid gatherings or family reunions over the holidays." The appetite for such guidance is virtually non-existent among hundreds of millions of Americans at this stage. Does he not know this? Does he not care? Approximately three-quarters of eligible Americans (aged 12+) have now received at least one vaccine shot, conferring at least partial immunity. Tens upon tens of millions of Americans also have natural immunity, having recovered from previous COVID cases. Vaccines are freely available to anyone who wants them, and the most vulnerable among us are now receiving booster shots. This is night-and-day different from the 2020 Christmas season, when vaccines were just starting to roll out to a tiny fraction of the population. Allahpundit's frustration is palpable and on-point:
It’s hard to imagine anything more helpful to anti-vax propagandists than having America’s most famous scientist still reluctant to condone celebrating Christmas together a year after the shots rolled out. What was the point of immunizing 185 million people if families can’t get together to enjoy everyone’s favorite holiday for the first time in two years? Do the shots work or don’t they, doctor? ... What’s the point of giving public health guidance which you know for a fact won’t be followed?
Furthermore, we now have highly successful monoclonal antibody treatments available to people infected with the virus, which have been proven to reduce the likelihood of hospitalization by 70 percent. A very promising new drug in the form of a pill also dramatically reduces the severity of COVID infections, and is already being compared to Tamiflu:
The pill cut the risk of hospitalization or death in study subjects with mild to moderate Covid-19 by about 50%, the companies said Friday. The drug, called molnupiravir, was performing so well in its late-stage trial that Merck and Ridgeback said they stopped enrolling subjects after discussions with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. The results put molnupiravir on track potentially to be authorized by the end of the year and to finally provide an option for doctors who have spent the pandemic seeking a drug that infected people could easily take at home to prevent them from becoming hospitalized. Merck plans to ask the FDA to authorize the drug’s use in the coming weeks...If cleared by regulators, the drug would be the first oral antiviral for Covid-19. Within five days of showing symptoms, people would take eight pills daily for five days, if they followed the same protocol used in the study. Molnupiravir would become a kind of Tamiflu for Covid-19, a medication that can be dispensed to patients when they first develop symptoms, slowing the spread of the virus in the body and potentially preventing people from becoming seriously ill.
There is no justification to even suggest that Americans may be asked to refrain from celebrating Thanksgiving or Christmas this year. It's true that the Delta wave has wreaked havoc in a number of Southern states – even in Florida, which boasts significantly above-average vaccine rates. It's also true that as seasons shift, the wave could surge cases, hospitalizations and deaths in other regions. But between the universal availability of vaccines, and a growing number of effective treatments that can help mitigate the risk of hospitals or ICU's becoming overwhelmed, our new status quo is simply different now. One estimate from June suggested that as many as 85 percent of Americans had some form of immunity against COVID at that time, which is why former FDA chief Scott Gottlieb has been saying he believes the current Delta wave may be the last major wave to sweep across the country prior to the virus becoming endemic (and no longer an uncontrolled pandemic):
Is the Delta variant the last wave of Covid? Dr. Scott Gottlieb weighs in on if we could be nearing the end of the pandemic pic.twitter.com/SP7nbET2qq— CNBC's Closing Bell (@CNBCClosingBell) September 24, 2021
Fauci certainly knows this is likely true. He initially told Americans that immunity levels among 70 percent of the population would get us to "herd immunity," before revising the number up to 80 percent (he admitted the shifting goalposts were about reading public opinion and manipulating behavior). As mentioned above, we have already likely blown past Fauci's own "nudged up" number. So now what? What's the endgame? Fauci's equivocation about the acceptability of holiday celebrations is alienating enough. This is worse:
“It is an assumption that it’s okay to get infected and get mild and moderate disease, as long as you don’t wind up in the hospital and die. I have to be honest: I reject that,” Anthony Fauci says. #TAF21 https://t.co/rEeWZWqPTI pic.twitter.com/0n9PBFSU31— The Atlantic (@TheAtlantic) September 28, 2021
This virus is extremely transmissible. Many fully vaccinated people are getting "breakthrough" cases, including yours truly. What is the alternative here, doc? There is no realistic universe in which we eradicate the spread of COVID, so counting on existing immunity to keep people out of hospitals and morgues is the only attainable endgame in an open society. I realize that "long COVID" is a real risk that impacts millions, as are the myriad side effects and additional consequences from infections. Of course, we would like to prevent as many infections as possible. But overall, getting infected with mild or moderate cases of COVID (thanks to vaccines and existing immunity) is going to be the relatively sustainable new normal. It doesn't matter whether Fauci or anyone else "rejects" that; it's just reality. I'll leave you with this:
Remember on Sep. 7 when Anthony Fauci said of packed college football stadiums across the country, especially the south, "I don't think it's smart"?— Kyle Lamb (@kylamb8) October 2, 2021
Here are the three southern HHS regions 4, 6 and 9 with daily cases collectively per capita. pic.twitter.com/ZczfZYy7I7
People are packing huge stadiums every weekend across the country, and especially in the South – the hottest hotspot in the Delta wave, until recently. Once schools opened, with many students unmasked, and with these huge events taking place, the wave has collapsed. Fauci firmly took the side of masking kids in schools and warned against the football games. Given his track record, beyond the most neurotic elements of our society, who is likely to listen to him if he decides to decree that holiday parties are a problem? Almost no one, yet here he is prattling on. Perhaps the doctor should go back and listen to his interview with Hugh Hewitt and give serious thought to the possibility that Hewitt's underlying point was correct.
UPDATE - Cleanup:
Dr. Fauci: “I will be spending Christmas with my family. I encourage people -- particularly the vaccinated people who are protected -- to have a good, normal Christmas with your family.”— Kate Sullivan (@KateSullivanDC) October 4, 2021