It seems some viral infection pandemics are more equal than others. At least when it comes to burning a vibrant Trump economy to the ground.
In September 2009, after millions had become infected with the H1N1 influenza and thousands had died, some of whom were young people and children, a relaxed and unalarmed Dr. Anthony Fauci told an interviewer that people just need "to use good judgment."
"Parents should not send their kids to school if they're sick, if you're sick don't go to work ... avoid places where there are people who are sick and coughing, now that's a difficult thing to do,” he said. "...You can't isolate yourself from the rest of the world for the whole flu season." That’s quite a change from the esteemed expert’s views on the current virus from China sweeping the world.
It’s peculiar that nowhere in the 2009 video does Dr. Fauci suggest that in order to alleviate the stress on hospital supplies we "force, uh, delay, if not cancel anything that's elective, I mean any medical or surgical procedures that need to be done on an elective basis should not be done." Dr. Fauci's statement to NBC's Savannah Guthrie on March 20, 2020 and his obvious slip of the tongue using the word “force” reveals just how much influence Dr. Fauci has over our daily lives. To date, hospitals, imaging centers, and outpatient departments across the country have cancelled non-emergent testing and surgical procedures.
Additionally, nowhere in the 2009 interview does Dr. Fauci specifically mention restaurants and bars as hot spots for the transmission of the H1N1 virus as he does in his recent interview with Yahoo News: “When I see crowded bars and crowded restaurants, it is a little bit unnerving,” Fauci said. "It’s clear that those are the situations that put people very much at risk." Talk about wielding power. Take a look around the country. Local and state officials have heeded Fauci’s “unnerving” concern and ordered restaurants to close their dining areas, or adhere to a 10-person limit. In cities and small towns everywhere, the restaurant industry, which includes owners, suppliers, chefs, line cooks, waitstaff, and bartenders, has been decimated.
Restaurants and bar owners, along with their employees, are the hardest hit economically by the virus. In my city of Richmond, Virginia, 75% to 80% of restaurant staff have been laid off. One hundred restaurants have closed and those not following Governor Ralph ‘Blackface' Northam's 10-person limit have been advised they could lose their business licenses and possibly risk police action if they do not comply. Meanwhile, Dr. Fauci lamented to Yahoo! News that he is unable to get his usual seven-mile daily run in due to his 19-hour days helping the American people, but he's hopeful "sometime soon we’ll get back to some normality where I can exercise the way I like to exercise."
Lastly, nowhere in the 2009 interview does Fauci use inflammatory, fear-inducing rhetoric, despite the number of H1N1-infected individuals, increased hospitalizations and deaths occurring at that time. Eleven years later, on March 11, 2020, Fauci is gung ho about COVID-19, warning lawmakers at a hearing on Capitol Hill: "Bottom line, it's going to get worse." Since then, the renowned AIDS epidemiologist has been seen daily at White House press conferences and on cable news shows reiterating this message to the public.
For all of Dr. Fauci’s daily appearances and scientific evaluations of the data, questions still abound. For example: Why did Dr. Fauci not sound the alarm in 2009 as urgently as he has done in 2020?
Why did he not insist we 'force' hospitals to cancel elective tests and surgeries to save room for future infected patients during the H1N1 outbreak? Why did he pointedly target restaurants and bars in his concern for the spread of the coronavirus but not H1N1? As a specialist in infectious diseases, and as a self-described "man of science," why support the closing of schools, businesses, and home quarantine for one virus and not the other?
H1N1's duration from April 2009 to April 2010 with 60 million infected and almost 13,000 deaths in the U.S. alone was no less serious than the 2020 coronavirus so why was Dr. Fauci taking a more measured approach in 2009?
The answers may come too late. The economy that was setting records has been broken, at least, and hopefully, temporarily. The working and middle classes, who only a month ago were celebrating the purchase of a new car, a house, a raise, moving out of their parents' home or the promise of a better job are wondering if they can hold on, and some are waking up to the realization their lives have been turned upside down over a virus that is no more deadly than the flu they got last year.