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Newmann: A bitter pill

“No good deed unpunished, no bad one unrewarded.” — Walter Mapp, 12th Century “De nugis curialium”

Seems like, back in the 1100s, some folks realized the irony of irrationality. But we’ve advanced and evolved from those feudal times. And now, almost a thousand years later, irrationality is on steroids.

The other day, Twitter’s new owner, a gentleman who generally considers himself to be the smartest person in the room, delivered a broadside at Dr. Anthony Fauci, the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases director. The Twitter guy, Elon Musk, tweeted “My pronouns are Prosecute/Fauci” and, in one great five-word swipe, targeted the LGBTQ community and Fauci. So much for genius, especially when said genius is hemorrhaging $4 million a day on his new entity, has a $13 billion debt on the $44 billion that he paid for the company and can’t even make the rent. Perhaps he has good reason to vent his frustrations on whatever or whomever he can.



Musk joins such scientific luminaries as Marjorie Taylor Greene, Rand Paul, and the former occupant of the White House, all of whom have been vitriolic in dissing Fauci. And the House Republicans appear to be resolute on investigating the doctor when they take control next year.

His critics allege that, among other misdeeds, Fauci reversed himself on the use of masks in the early stages of the pandemic, saying initially that masks would not be effective against the virus while later advocating their use. To counter these allegations, Fauci said that, when the pandemic began, only medical-grade masks (then in short supply) were thought to work against the spread of the disease. He added that, at the onset of COVID-19, no one could predict the rapid asymptomatic transmission of the virus.

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But, as more data became available, his advice on many aspects of the pandemic changed.

“As a scientist, as a health official, when those data change … it’s essential that you change your position because you’ve got to be guided by science and the current data,” he said. “People want to fire me or put me in jail for what I’ve done, namely follow the science.”

Speaking of that science, we’re now almost two years to the day from the administration of the first COVID shots in the U.S. And a joint study, released on Tuesday by Commonwealth Fund and Yale School of Public Health, reported that without the vaccine the U.S. would have had 1.5 times more infections, 3.8 times more hospitalizations, and 4.1 times more deaths than it had between December 2000 and November 2022. The results speak for themselves — but many people are still either resistant or hesitant to get the vaccine.



Fauci, who steps down later this month after more than five decades of federal service under seven presidents, had some advice for those skeptical folks last week.

“Don’t wait,” he said. “If you wait you put yourself at risk. We’re entering the colder months … we’re all going to congregate with our families and friends for the holidays. If you are up to date, great. If you are not, get vaccinated now.”

In short, follow the science.

Ironically, some of the aforementioned critics of Fauci seem to value rhetoric over science. While these folks style themselves as passionate advocates of free speech, they may just want to take a note from the departing doctor. Because while freedom of speech encompasses an infinitely broad spectrum, it still seems to be best served by responsible speech.

Tom Newmann splits his time between Edwards and Queenstown, New Zealand. He has been going winter-to-winter since 1986. He was also a journalist in Missoula, Montana, at the Missoulian for quite a few years. Email him at tsnnz12@gmail.com.


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