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Dr. Fauci just made the WHO look worse than it already did

Published Jun 10th, 2020 4:00PM EDT
Coronavirus update
Image: Shutterstock

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  • Dr. Anthony has now weighed in on the World Health Organization’s coronavirus update from Monday, during which one WHO official said that the asymptomatic spread of the virus is “very rare.”
  • That’s incorrect, according to Fauci.
  • This comes as the latest numbers from Johns Hopkins University show that almost 7.3 million cases of the virus have now been identified around the world.

In case you missed it on Monday, the World Health Organization provided a coronavirus update that kicked up a firestorm and sparked more questions than it answered, forcing the health body to walk back its statements the next day — and, ultimately, not really clearing much of anything at all. In brief, it was a remark from Dr. Maria Van Kerkhove, who heads up the WHO’s emerging diseases and zoonosis unit, explaining that the so-called asymptomatic spread of the coronavirus doesn’t seem to be the main way it’s been transmitted — that’s what caused such an uproar. Why? Well, some people immediately reckoned, if we don’t actually have to worry about people infected with coronavirus who seem fine but could spread the virus anyway, what was with all the lockdowns?

In a live stream the next day, Dr. Kerkhove walked back her comment in a way that’s not really very decipherable to me, with her seeming to explain that when she said the asymptomatic spread of the virus is “very rare,” that that doesn’t mean what we assumed she meant. “I was responding to a question at the press conference,” she said, per CNBC. “I wasn’t stating a policy of WHO or anything like that. I was just trying to articulate what we know, and in that, I used the phrase ‘very rare,’ and I think that that’s a misunderstanding to state that asymptomatic transmission globally is very rare. I was referring to a small subset of studies.” Meantime, as if on cue, Dr. Anthony Fauci has likewise weighed in with his own assessment of the remarks from Monday, saying during a new appearance on ABC’s Good Morning America that the WHO was “not correct” about asymptomatic spread.

“In fact, the evidence we have given the percentage of people, which is about 25% (to) 45%, of the totality of infected people likely are without symptoms,” Fauci said on GMA. “And we know from epidemiological studies that they can transmit to someone who is uninfected even when they are without symptoms.”

This is one of several reversals or clarifications the WHO has had to issue since the start of the coronavirus pandemic. Initially, for example, the thinking was that we didn’t have to worry about human-to-human spread of the virus, and that masks wouldn’t be effective in limiting its spread — two bits of thinking that did not at all hold up over the long term.

Fauci’s comments came one day after the doctor — who’s the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases — described the coronavirus pandemic as his “worst nightmare” come to life. And that there will likely be “multiple winners” in the race by global pharmaceutical entities to develop a successful vaccine to help humanity put this pandemic behind us. So thank god for that, at least.

Andy Meek Trending News Editor

Andy Meek is a reporter based in Memphis who has covered media, entertainment, and culture for over 20 years. His work has appeared in outlets including The Guardian, Forbes, and The Financial Times, and he’s written for BGR since 2015. Andy's coverage includes technology and entertainment, and he has a particular interest in all things streaming.

Over the years, he’s interviewed legendary figures in entertainment and tech that range from Stan Lee to John McAfee, Peter Thiel, and Reed Hastings.