2020年4月3日 星期五

The Daily: Calling Dr. Fauci

Our interview with the nation’s top infectious disease specialist.
Dr. Anthony Fauci (top), the coronavirus explainer-in-chief, speaking with Michael Barbaro.Alexandra Leigh Young/The New York Times

For weeks, our team has talked about trying to interview Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease specialist, about the coronavirus pandemic. He’s a unique figure in this crisis: a 30-year student of global epidemics, from H.I.V. to H1N1; a member of President Trump’s coronavirus task force; and one of two doctors, along with Dr. Deborah Birx, assigned by the White House to explain this emergency to the public through daily briefings and interviews.

Negotiations to schedule a time with him were complex. They started in earnest then petered out. His staff expressed interest but then told us he wasn’t available. Late last week, producer Robert Jimison tried again. This time, his staff said yes. They would grant us 45 minutes on Wednesday.

Structuring an interview like this is inherently complicated. We thought of Dr. Fauci as somebody who could demystify this moment and explain what the next few weeks of the pandemic might look like. But just as much, we saw him as a top adviser to the president, someone who could answer for the actions taken — or not taken — to contain and confront the coronavirus so far. The interview, we concluded, would need to toggle between those goals: explanation and accountability.


We treated the first half of the interview as a chance for Dr. Fauci to recount when and how he knew the coronavirus would become a major public health crisis, and the decisions that have led the U.S. to this grim moment, when he now estimates that at least 100,000 Americans will die from the deadly pathogen.

We asked Dr. Fauci about when and why the government decided to ban international travel, ramp up testing, and issue guidance on social distancing and stay-at-home orders. A few listeners challenged this line of questioning. But we felt it was important to pose these questions to a top federal scientist, one who has profoundly shaped the thinking behind these policies — and who told us he knew this would be a global health catastrophe in early January, well before the U.S. had begun to act.

In the second half of the interview, we wanted to understand his role and responsibilities — a day in the life of Dr. Fauci as he navigates the pandemic. He told us about 4 a.m. wake-up times, long hours with the president and the mounds of data he sifts through.

We also wanted to explore how and when federal officials like Dr. Fauci would know when the crisis was over, and whether they had the tools in place to make that determination. He surprised us by saying that the coronavirus would remain a threat until a vaccine was widely available — a year from now, at least.


“I believe that in a few months, hopefully, that we’ll get it under control enough that it won’t be as frightening as it is now,” he told us. “But it will not be an absent threat. It will be a threat that is there.”

Finally, we turned a bit philosophical, asking how Dr. Fauci hoped both he and the country would be remembered after this pandemic was over. His answer struck us as the right way to end the episode:

“You know, I just would hope that I’m remembered for what I think I’m doing, is that I’m doing the very best that I possibly can,” he said. “I’ve been a public servant all my life. And this is right now, you know, kind of almost the epitome of being a public servant, of trying to mitigate against a terrible disease that afflicted us. You know, it came out of nowhere and we need to deal with it and we will deal with it.”

Talk to Michael on Twitter: @mikiebarb.


An update from a family fighting Covid-19

Last Sunday, we aired a reading of an essay by Jessica Lustig, a deputy editor of The Times Magazine, about her family’s fight against the coronavirus. Her husband tested positive for the virus in mid-March, and since then, she and her daughter have been providing him with round-the-clock care.

Many of you wrote in, inquiring about the health of Jessica’s husband in the days since.

Fortunately, Jessica has better news to share:

“Twenty days since my husband first felt sick, he is on the road to recovery. This is no ordinary illness, and the recovery has been slow. But slow and steady is much, much better than where we were a week ago. We’re so thankful to all who have responded with such care and concern, and hope our story might help others stay safe.”

Introducing ‘Sugar Calling’

The New York Times

Earlier this evening, a new podcast was born: “Sugar Calling,” hosted by Cheryl Strayed. You’ll hear an abridged version of the first episode in your “Daily” feed today as well.

You may know Cheryl (a.k.a. Sugar) as an advice columnist, co-host of “Dear Sugars” and author of four books, including “Wild.”

Cheryl says that writing taught her how to give advice. But in this moment of uncertainty, she’s setting aside advice-giving in favor of wisdom-seeking. Each week, she’ll call up a writer she admires and ask the questions we’re all wondering: How do we stay calm when everything has been upended? How do we muster courage when fear is all around us?

First up: George Saunders. In the episode, George reads us an email that he recently sent to his creative writing graduate students at Syracuse University. Here’s a taste:

“But I guess what I’m trying to say is that the world is like a sleeping tiger and we tend to live our lives there on its back. (We’re much smaller than the tiger, obviously. We’re like Barbies and Kens on the back of a tiger.) And now and then that tiger wakes up. And that is terrifying. Sometimes it wakes up and someone we love dies. Or someone breaks our heart. Or there’s a pandemic. But this is far from the first time that tiger has come awake. He/she has been doing it since the beginning of time and will never stop doing it.”

Look out for new episodes and literary wisdom every Wednesday. Subscribe to “Sugar Calling” wherever you get your podcasts.

On ‘The Daily’ this week

Monday: You always live in fear that you’re never going to wake up.” We hear from James Cai, a physician assistant, who was New Jersey’s first confirmed patient with the coronavirus.

Tuesday: The story of why we’re running out of ventilators highlights the “incredible tension between the business of American health care and the ability to respond to a crisis,” Sarah Kliff reports.

Wednesday: For the scientific community, the sprint to make a coronavirus vaccine is about “global cooperation,” Katrin Bennhold tells us. But for nationalist leaders, it’s resembling an arms race.

Thursday: Dr. Anthony Fauci on overseeing the government’s response to the pandemic: “I actually think this is exactly what generals or leaders in real, you know, violent combat wars feel.”

Friday: Alex Burns explains how the pandemic has generated a revival of state and local politics — and made governors into national heroes.

That’s it for The Daily newsletter. See you next week.

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