Dr. Fauci, please. You’re just making it worse now.
Look, I like you. I really do. And I say that knowing the barrage of hate mail those seven words will get me. Yes, some conservatives call you “Dr. Doom,” and for a good reason: Your job is to look at the epidemiological struggles we’re facing as a country and work with other policymakers and stakeholders to get us through the COVID-19 crisis. It’s a grim job.
However, on your own, you’re not particularly good at figuring out human behavior, messaging, public health policy, federalism, compromise or the political entanglements and exigencies the last nine months have created. You are a COVID-19 figure, not the COVID-19 figure.
And for the love of Pete, you’re not going to make America feel better by saying you went up to the North Pole and vaccinated Santa Claus yourself.
Yes, yes, I know: It’s that most wonderful time of the year, where TV weathermen pretend during their Christmas Eve broadcasts that they’ve received reports of that right jolly old elf and his sleigh approaching their city, having picked them up on SuperDoppler3000™ just on the outskirts of the suburbs.
I’m probably a terrible person because I’ve always secretly wished for the confluence of a Christmas Eve snowstorm and a frayed weatherman an inch-and-a-half away from going full-on Howard Beale:
“Well, it looks like due to the snow squalls and icing below 3,000 feet, Santa’s diverted to LaGuardia and is awaiting further instructions. Also, he subcontracted to Spirit Airlines this year — so let’s face it, that sleigh’s not going to be on-time, anyhow. The 27th is still OK with you tykes, right? I mean, you’re still receiving the presents, just not when you normally would. It’s 2020, kiddos! I was supposed to be doing the weather with the NBC affiliate in Boston but the budget fell through after advertising revenue tanked. You’re still getting that Nintendo Switch, just two days late. Boo hoo. Get used to disappointment!”
For whatever reason, I suppose this is frowned upon — although now that I’m a new father I might just try some variation of this feint with my kid when she’s old enough. I suppose if Storm Weatherson from Fox 37 in Twin Peaks, Washington, wants to say that he’s got an incoming trajectory on Santa’s sled as he descends from his trans-Pacific flight, though, nobody’s going to bat an eye.
But when the nation’s top epidemiological expert goes on CNN and tells America’s kids he basically saved Christmas, consider mine eyes batted, and heavily so:
Santa Claus will be coming to town this year, Dr. Anthony Fauci says.
“I took care of that for you,” he says. “…I took a trip up there to the North Pole; I went there and I vaccinated Santa Claus myself. I measured his level of immunity, and he is good to go.” #CNNSesameStreet pic.twitter.com/CNJ520XTew
— CNN (@CNN) December 19, 2020
On Saturday, the head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases assured children in a segment on CNN that he’d ensured Kris Kringle had gotten his inoculation.
“Well, I have to say I took care of that for you because I was worried that you all would be upset,” Fauci said.
“So what I did a little while ago, I took a trip up there to the North Pole. I went there and I vaccinated Santa Claus myself. I measured his level of immunity, and he is good to go. He can come down the chimney, he can leave the presents, he can leave and you have nothing to worry about. Santa Claus is good to go.”
Should Dr. Fauci have told children he inoculated Santa Claus?
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So first: Ugh. Just really. Maybe this is the version of the Storm Weatherson radar report for 2020, but Fauci is the same guy man who lectures adults that “now is the time to do what you’re told” but tells kids that don’t worry, he jetted up to the North Pole and gave Santa his jab? I didn’t see the full segment, alas. Did he lecture the reindeer on proper mask usage, too? Did he ensure Rudolph’s red nose wouldn’t burn through the material?
This was apparently part of a segment teaching children about COVID-19. I’m not saying parents are doing a perfect job of this, but if you’re at the point nine months later where the head of NIAID is filling your kids in on why they’ve been putting on a mask and learning from home for the better part of a year, you need a lot more than Dr. Fauci assuring your offspring he gave Santa his vaccine.
Also, didn’t Moderna or Pfizer have someone trustworthy to go up there to give Santa his shots? Dr. Fauci is a pretty important guy and even a direct flight from Dulles to the North Pole is probably a 14-hour slog. Also, the good doctor, who will be turning 80 on Christmas Eve, is in a vulnerable population.
Should he really be on a plane for the better part of the day — even if he is wearing a mask?
Somewhat more soberly, according to BuzzFeed, “Fauci also answered questions about the vaccine, how the virus affects people, and the importance of following safety measures like wearing a mask even after getting vaccinated.”
Fine, I get it: This made old episodes of Bill Nye look like Richard Feynman interviews. However, if we’re going to explain to kids how the vaccine works, we also have to explain that it involves getting two shots between 21 and 28 days apart and that immunity doesn’t begin kicking in until over a week after you receive the shot. Both vaccines were also just approved.
So, was Santa part of the Phase 3 trials? Did he experience the side effects, sometimes brutal, that other trial participants did? Was Fauci present for both inoculations that Santa got?
This isn’t Storm Weatherson from Fox 37 tracking Santa on SuperDoppler3000™. This is the nation’s top epidemiologist trying to explain COVID, Christmas and vaccines to kids — and coming up with this.
There’s a word that’s gotten a whole lot more useful this year but still doesn’t have the linguistic currency or cachet of “lockdown,” “pandemic” or “Zoom.” It’s “ultracrepidarian“: “Expressing opinions on matters outside the scope of one’s knowledge or expertise.” You’ve seen a lot of it on cable news.
Yes, I understand, Fauci’s scope of knowledge or expertise is, in fact, a wide one. He’s probably not the person to say that America’s “independent spirit” had “hurt us during the pandemic” and contributed to people who believe COVID-19 “is a hoax, that it’s fake.”
Nor did he do a particularly good job at instilling trust in the COVID vaccine in the black community by pointing out that Kizzy Corbett “is an African-American scientist who is right at the forefront of the development of the vaccine.”
He’s not good at predicting the economic impact of the lockdowns or what the public health risks of lockdowns are — especially when it comes to mental health and addiction risks. He’s not particularly good at telling us when to buy masks. And, quite frankly, I’m not particularly convinced he’s good at assuring our kids — even in a cutesy, playful way — that Christmas is going to be all right because he gave Santa the jab.
Take this as you will from a guy who hopes Spirit Airlines is still around in five years so he can have some fun with his daughter.
I’m fully aware this isn’t a healthy way to deal with Santa’s annual chimney-crashing. I’m not the nation’s top epidemiologist, however, and I’m not doing it in the middle of a pandemic.
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