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Fauci masters mixed non-message on omicron

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On Nov. 26, the World Health Organization declared omicron a COVID variant “of concern,” sending global markets into a tailspin and prompting countries in the EU, Asia, Australia as well as the U.S. to restrict travel to and from southern Africa, where the variant was detected.

Ten days later, word from White House medical adviser Dr. Anthony Fauci is it “does not look like there’s a great degree of severity to it.”

From all hell’s breaking loose to not that bad — is this any way to run a pandemic?

FDR famously said “the only thing we have to fear is fear itself,” but he didn’t have to deal with a world health authority eager to save face after early pandemic missteps and a national health expert whose counsel is as steady as a weathervane.

Fauci told CNN’s Jake Tapper on Sunday that it is “too early to really make any definitive statements” about the variant first detected in South Africa, which led to a spike in new cases. He added that early signs are good, despite a “transmission advantage.”

“But we have really got to be careful before we make any determinations that [omicron] is less severe or it really doesn’t cause any severe illness comparable to delta. But, thus far, the signals are a bit encouraging regarding the severity. But, again, you got to hold judgment until we get more experience,” Fauci said.

So the answer is it looks sort of OK, but maybe not, we’ll wait and see, but let’s ban travel in the meantime.

And about that ban, Fauci is having misgivings. As Business Insider reported, Fauci spoke with Wendy Zukerman, host of Spotify’s “Science Vs.” podcast late last week, and said he thinks the ban should be rolled back.

“When we first saw and heard about what was going on in South Africa, we really were blind. We had no idea what was going to happen. And one of the things we wanted to do, which was understandable, was to best as possible protect the American public,” Fauci told Zukerman.

“We did not know it was in other countries at the time of the ban. It looked like it was just in South Africa,” Fauci said. “But right now, you’re right, it is out there, so it’s going to spread no matter what. So that’s the reason why I would feel that, hopefully, we can pull back on that ban as quickly as possible.”

Still, Fauci maintained that if a ban had not been instituted, people would have been upset and “crucified” the administration for its inaction.

It’s out there and it’s going to spread no matter what, and people would have been upset with the Biden administration if there had been no ban – none of this sounds like a health expert making judicious, thoughtful decisions, devoid of politics.

What it does sound like is a repeat of Fauci’s “ordinary people don’t need a mask,” “yes you do, I just said that so that health care workers would have enough” shenanigans earlier in the pandemic.

We’ve known that variants were coming — remember lambda and mu? — but what Americans need are leaders they can trust, who will at least own up to not having all the facts before they make decisions that only heighten fears, even if they also elevate a political image of taking action.

Fauci continues to undermine trust in his own abilities.

Washington D.C. needs a no B.S. vaccine — where’s Operation Warp Speed when you need it?


Fauci masters mixed non-message on omicron | Editorial