There are so many jobs out there where people sign up to run toward the fire — figuratively and literally. We know that firefighters will come when we call them. We know that doctors and hospital staff expose themselves to viruses and diseases day in and day out to care for us. What they are ultimately responding to is a call to duty. Like my dad, a veteran who chose to enlist in the Army, protecting the country he loved.
There is risk in every job, right? I mean, teachers go to work in schools, and no matter their location, they could become victims of a mass shooting. And now, they risk exposure to COVID-19. I used to commute on the train for work (pre-pandemic) and I mean, there is even some risk in that. When our frontline workers head in for another shift, their first thought is not that they may contract a deadly virus or not return to their families at the end of the day, but that they are responding to their call to protect, serve, and (hopefully) save lives.
Frontline workers and first responders aren’t the only ones facing occupational threats, though. What about those whose job is to inform the public of our risks, to voice their concerns based on facts and science? Over the past few weeks, there has been an increase in the number of threats made against Dr. Anthony Fauci., the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, and a key player in our nation’s efforts to get the coronavirus pandemic under control.
This is not okay, and is a threat to us all.
Imagine that your family needed a security team to ensure that they would be safe from harm. Imagine that you had to have armed security guards stationed outside of your house, steps away from where you go to relax, release your stressors from the day, and wrap yourself around your loved ones. Imagine that your job, the career you’ve worked tirelessly for and sacrificed for, was the very thing bringing you fear, anxiety, and exhaustion. That is what Dr. Fauci has faced recently.
In an interview with Dr. Sanjay Gupta, for CNBC, Dr. Fauci shines some light on what he and his family are enduring, “The unseemingly things that crises bring out in the world, it brings out the best of people and the worst of people, and getting death threats to my family and harassing my daughters to the point where I have to get security — it’s amazing,” he says. Not only is Dr. Anthony Fauci tasked with maintaining the virus for our entire country, but he also must manage the aggression of the science-denying folks–emboldened by our current President and his administration– who see his information as a threat to their personal freedoms.
Let’s look at the numbers. The pandemic hit the United States at the end of January, and by March, as a country, we were heading to quarantine. Why? Because people were getting sick and dying with a novel virus that we really knew nothing about. It began in China, spread quickly to Thailand, and then hit South Korea, Italy, and Iran — quickly shutting down travel to and from these countries. Experts around the world saw and understood the risk.
Today, there is so much attention being paid to the virus that has brought just about every country around the world to a halt, that you can sit all day and look at a map of exactly how the virus is spreading on a website managed by John Hopkins University. As I write this, the death toll stands at over 851,000 globally, with the United States leading the pack with the most people infected at more than six million cases. These numbers tell us a story and we need to hear it. The medical and scientific experts tasked with providing this information shouldn’t be worried for their own safety just because they’re telling people the things that literally no one wants to hear.
We have a responsibility to help get our country to the other side of this virus, and that responsibility is two-fold. We must wear our masks. We must stay inside when our government officials ask us to. We must think about other people, not just our own families, but our friends, colleagues, and neighbors. We must listen to those who know more than us: people who have devoted their lives to knowing these things, like Dr. Anthony Fauci.
When I was a child and would ask my grandmother, “How do you know how to do that?” she would say, “I am a jack of all trades and a master of none.” We have experts for a reason. We all cannot be experts and must stay in our lane of expertise. If medicine isn’t it, then we need to listen to those who have spent their careers learning about viruses and disease, those who have led us out of other tenuous health situations.
It’s hard to trust people, especially when the virus is new to us all. It’s hard to know who to believe and which government officials to listen to — especially considering that our country’s leadership itself has been known to spread misinformation and dangerous lies. But one person who has not wavered in his approach and guidance is Dr. Anthony Fauci, whose advice is based on science, facts, and what other countries have taught us about the virus. And though this is what he has devoted his life to doing, he did not sign up to feel unsafe in his day to day life, or to put his family at risk, because of it. Of all the occupational hazards possible in his line of work, fearing for his life for telling the truth should not make the list.
We are indeed all in this together, and our togetherness spans across oceans, continents and cultures. Let’s open our hearts and minds to understanding that we can learn from one another, even in our most stressful of times. Let’s give Dr. Fauci the credit he deserves and stop acting like a room full of middle school bullies trying to discredit and threaten a man who loves his country and is trying to prevent people from dying.