Trevor Noah brought in the expert for Thursday’s Daily Social Distancing Show: Dr Anthony Fauci, the coronavirus era’s unlikely media star and voice of reason, calling from his headquarters at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases in Washington DC. There’s been such an overwhelming amount of information and opinion, some far less knowledgable than others, Noah explained, so Fauci offered some expert clarification. The Covid-19 virus is “insidious and treacherous”, he said, “in that you can spread it easily”, even if you’re asymptomatic or have mild symptoms such as a cough or low fever.
“The other part about it that’s really so different from anything we’ve ever faced before is that if you look at the mortality of seasonal flu – the thing that you and I go through every season – the mortality is about 0.1%,” Fauci explained. “That’s a lot, and we get used to that mortality. But the mortality of this is about 10 times that. It’s at least 1%.” And the mortality rate can be “devastating” for certain populations, such as the elderly and those with underlying conditions such as heart disease, lung disease and diabetes.
Which doesn’t let young people off the hook – “even though you are young, you are not absolutely invulnerable,” Fauci said. There are cases of young people in the 20s, 30s, 40s, requiring intensive care, “so if you think you’re completely invulnerable, you’re incorrect”.
And even if you have no symptoms, you can still infect a person who’s at high risk. “So you have a responsibility, not only to protect yourself, but you almost have a societal, moral responsibility to protect other people,” Fauci explained.
Noah asked Fauci what the biggest warning on misinformation about the virus was, especially regarding home remedies: “Right now, today, as we speak, there is no proven, safe and effective direct therapy for coronavirus disease,” he said.
As for timelines of returning to normal, Fauci said that depends on the “kinetics” of outbreaks across the country, with New York City currently the worst zone. “The virus is the clock,” he said, noting that social distancing measures should help.
On a positive note, it’s highly likely that those who have been infected with coronavirus are now immune. Tests haven’t confirmed it yet, “but I feel really confident that if this virus acts like every other virus that we know, once you get infected, get better, clear the virus, then you’ll have immunity that will prevent you from reinfection,” said Fauci.
“I could talk to you for an hour on this, but I know everyone wants your time,” Noah concluded, then slipped in one last joke: “Stay safe and wash your hands because of that fake cough you did.”
Meanwhile, from his home in Los Angeles, Jimmy Kimmel teleinterviewed the Democratic frontrunner and former vice-president Joe Biden, who countered Kimmel’s Mets hat with a Phillies one in honor of what would have been, sans coronavirus, Major League Baseball’s opening day.
Biden explained he was now spending most of his days on the phone, with healthcare and economic advisers from his campaign. Kimmel wondered: does he ever consider calling Donald Trump and offering advice? “You know, all kidding aside, what I did was I laid out in detail what I thought had to be done,” Biden replied. “The coronavirus is not his fault, but the lack of alacrity, the speed with which he responded to these things, I think could be improved considerably.
“I don’t quite understand the lack of willingness to move rapidly and to let science dictate,” Biden continued. Kimmel theorized that it’s pretty simple: “There is a part of him that when someone who he considers to be an opponent says something, he has to do the opposite. It could be as simple and childish as that.”
As for the presidential campaign, Biden confirmed that he’s considering “somewhere between five to seven people” as his running mate. Kimmel prodded on specifics – Sarah Palin is definitely not one of them, Biden joked. As for his former rival the Minnesota senator Amy Klobuchar? “She is fully qualified to be president.”
Finally, Biden selected the International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF) as Kimmel’s charity of the day. “They need help, because they’re the ones who are picking those folks up, whether it’s dragging them out of a burning car or someone they get called [to take] to the hospital.”
On Late Night, Seth Meyers ranted about Trump’s narcissism even in a pandemic. “The president is supposed to be a public trust – you’re supposed to be able to distinguish between your own personal interests and the duties of the office,” he explained. “Now, sure, every president gets something out of it. Maybe they use it to meet girls [John F Kennedy] or they get a nice Netflix deal [Barack Obama] or they might even use it to score a sweet deal in real estate [Jimmy Carter, who builds Habitat for Humanity houses].
“Ninety-five years old and still building houses – Jimmy Carter is the yin to Trump’s yang,” Meyers continued. “It’s like he has to do a good thing for every bad thing Trump does, one house at a time.”
Case in point: CNN reported this week that Trump wants to prematurely open up the US by Easter because he’s bored of isolation. “Hey man, welcome to the club! We’re all stuck inside,” Meyers fumed. “Why don’t you just do what we’re all doing and put on your sweatpants, watch four episodes of Tiger King, try to do an online workout, give up and then drink wine out of a cereal bowl until you pass out?”
Trump has reportedly demonstrated typical symptoms of cabin fever: crashing meetings, inserting himself into conversations and once-ignored briefs. Which means “the answer to the riddle ‘How do you get the president to go to a meeting?’” said Meyers, “is a fucking pandemic”.