Commentary

Despite Death Projection Getting Slashed, Fauci Still Calling for Radical Lifestyle Changes

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Sometimes, logical conclusions are overrated.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, has become a household name since the onset of the coronavirus crisis that has shut down the American economy with a death toll surpassing 100,000 worldwide.

He’s been quoted countless times by news outlets around the world. His face is more recognizable than most of the now-vanquished field for the Democratic presidential nomination.

If “Saturday Night Live” hadn’t been shut down by the pandemic, it wouldn’t have been surprising to see him pulling a guest-hosting gig at this point.

But even the nation’s most esteemed expert on contagious diseases might have gone too far with a conclusion he discussed in a podcast with The Wall Street Journal this week.

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Fauci thinks it’s high time the world stopped shaking hands.

The idea came up while Fauci was looking at the world’s return to normal once the crisis passes.

“When you gradually come back, you don’t jump into it with both feet. You say, ‘What are the things you could still do and still approach normal?” Fauci said.

“One of them is absolute compulsive hand-washing. The other one is you don’t ever shake anybody’s hands.

Do you think the custom of shaking hands will survive the coronavirus crisis?

“I don’t think we should ever shake hands ever again, to be honest with you. Not only would it be good to prevent coronavirus disease; it probably would decrease the incidence of influenza dramatically in this country.”

OK. There’s no denying Fauci has a point on some levels. Hand-washing, of course, is something no one can argue with. (Doctors washing their hands before surgery was one of the major innovations in the field of medicine, as a Smithsonian Magazine report from 2017 documented. And as a part of the medical canon, it’s a practice that’s only about 150 years old.)

And he’s doubtless right that shaking hands can help spread illness – how could it not? President Donald Trump himself — famously germaphobic — has called the practice “barbaric,” according to a Washington Post report from 2017.

“I’m not a big fan of the handshake,” Trump told the short-lived NBC show “Later Today” in 1999. “I think it’s barbaric. I mean, they have medical reports all the time. Shaking hands, you catch colds, you catch the flu. You catch this, you catch all sorts of things. Who knows what you don’t catch?”

But the idea of doing away with the custom completely, however logical it might be, isn’t going over well with Americans who — even in the midst of a potentially deadly pandemic — have watched projections for fatalities from the coronavirus dropping regularly as social isolation, social distancing and other mitigating measures have taken hold.

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The idea that entire populations will completely abandon a lifestyle habit that extends into antiquity in the Western world is a stretch. Communicable diseases as a whole weren’t born in the Chinese city of Wuhan in the fall of 2019; they were around a long time before that. And somehow, the custom of shaking hands didn’t destroy the human race (or Donald Trump’s political career).

Fauci’s idea didn’t go over well with many social media users.

And some took the idea even further along the path to its logical conclusion.

There’s the point. No one wants to live in the world of paranoia about germs.

Even though just about everyone over the age of, say, 12, can get behind the idea of better personal hygiene when it comes to hand-washing, the efforts of Fauci and his supporters are likely to come to naught in a culture where a handshake is manner of greeting and more than an honored institution in the business world.

It’s a sign of a promise, a gesture of understanding. At its heart, it’s a mutual sign of respect.

In a way, it’s the ultimate sign of trust – in a way that the current pandemic might only emphasize.

Fauci’s logic might be unassailable, it might have a supporter in the Oval Office even, but it’s not likely that Western culture will be waving goodbye to handshakes once this coronavirus crisis passes – and it will pass at some point.

Logical conclusions can be overrated.

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Joe has spent more than 30 years as a reporter, copy editor and metro desk editor in newsrooms in Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Florida. He's been with Liftable Media since 2015.
Joe has spent more than 30 years as a reporter, copy editor and metro editor in newsrooms in Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Florida. He's been with Liftable Media since 2015. Largely a product of Catholic schools, who discovered Ayn Rand in college, Joe is a lifelong newspaperman who learned enough about the trade to be skeptical of every word ever written. He was also lucky enough to have a job that didn't need a printing press to do it.
Birthplace
Philadelphia
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