Back when infectious disease expert, actual doctor, and blessedly apolitical smart person Dr. Anthony Fauci appeared on The Daily Show six months ago, viewers flocked to their TVs for his avuncular common sense on the COVID-19 epidemic. Well, it’s September, there is no sign of abatement as we hurtle toward a cold winter of indoor breath-swapping, and Dr. Fauci is recovering from surgery after no-joke talking his vocal cords to shreds attempting to get Americans to wash their hands, avoid mass Smash Mouth and super-spreader hate rally gatherings, and wear—for the love of all that is holy—a goddamned mask.
Telling Trevor Noah on his half-yearly Daily Show visit that he’d been talking “17-18 hours a day” trying—with saintly patience—to get people to take this fucking health crisis seriously, Fauci explained that he had to have some polyps removed in order to get his voice back. And while six months of non-stop talk surely was the main cause of Fauci’s ailment, the sheer force of will necessary to not just scream at those repeating Fox News/internet conspiracy theories and deadly-lunatic falsehoods sounds like polyp-bait as well. Regardless, the good, necessary doctor was back and in fine, eminently reasonable voice on Monday, rebutting some of that nonsense (no, those 200,000 dead Americans and counting aren’t being used to pad out the COVID death toll to hurt Donald Trump, you dipshits), and, once more, attempting to offer up a sane, consistent massage about the coronavirus. Even if Fauci has been almost entirely sidelined by a White House more interested in pandering to the science-averse lunatic fringe that is Trump’s biohazard base.
Noah did attempt to prod his guest into criticizing—just for example—the fact that Trump daily contradicts the head of the CDC when it’s politically convenient, that that same government agency is routinely deleting Trump-inconvenient safety guidelines and data from its website, or that Fauci has mostly been replaced as the one sane disease expert associated with the Trump administration in favor of hand-picked yes-people who’ll dutifully nod along with every recklessly idiotic thing that dribbles out of Trump’s mask-less mouth. (And don’t forget the mole-person whole been undermining Fauci from inside his own National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases by pseudonymously plying anti-Fauci propaganda on a widely read right-wing misinformation site.) Fauci wasn’t biting, saying that the politicization of actual medicine and science is why the U.S. has never dropped below 20 thousand new COVID case a day (it’s hovering around 30-40 thousand a day now), noting only that his science-based advice is only sought out “if its the message that they want out on that particular day.”
As for that advice, much of it hasn’t changed. Wash your hands. Do outdoor things rather than indoor as much as possible. Don’t touch your face before washing your hands, ever. And—just so Dr. Fauci doesn’t have to raise his surgically-repaired voice—WEAR A GODDAMN MASK. Noah peppered the doc with a few lightning round what-ifs on mask wear as well. Yes, in a movie theater (also, probably don’t go to a movie theater). No, while riding your bike alone (but yes if you stop to talk to someone or wind up riding close to a new bike buddy). Yes, in an elevator, even if you’re alone. (Those are doors. They open. Other people whoosh in.) And, if you really need to eat out at a restaurant, wear your mask when not actively eating. (Also, probably just get takeout.)
On the question of a possible vaccine, Noah mentioned that the conventional (as in outside of the unventilated Trump train) wisdom is that nobody’s going to feel safe taking one until Dr. Fauci gives the high-sign. Fauci, repeatedly not putting himself or his ego at the center of a worldwide health emergency (see, Donnie, it’s not that hard), demurred on that, urging people, as ever, to listen to the science. Sure, it’s implied that that means you should listen to him over a desperately flailing, poll-obsessed malignant narcissist, but Fauci’s whole message is to “look at the data,” urging everyone to listen to the independent, non-politicized Data And Safety Monitoring Board once any vaccine trials are underway. Still, with a weary nation turning its eyes to him, Fauci said that, should a vaccine trial seem safe after 30-60 days of testing, “I would use it myself.” So, with Election Day only 42 days away and no remotely viable vaccine in production, the clear implication is that anyone (say, a politician desperately trying to cling to power by any means necessary) touting a rushed miracle cure before November 3 should be avoided like, well, the plague.