In This Episode
- President Biden announced yesterday that the US will have enough doses to vaccinate all Americans by the end of July. We talk to Dr. Anthony Fauci about the vaccines on the way, what they’ll mean as we start to face new variants, and mask guidance in the meantime.
- And in headlines: House managers wrapped up their final arguments in Trump’s second impeachment trial, queer and trans Americans will be protected under the Fair Housing Act, and Jeep pulls Bruce Springsteen’s ad after reports of his November DUI.
Akilah Hughes: It’s Friday, February 12th, I’m Akilah Hughes.
Gideon Resnick: And I’m Gideon Resnick, and this is What A Day where we are calling on Cupid to control himself this year and just leave everyone alone.
Akilah Hughes: Yeah, you’re a baby. Just like go be a baby on a cloud. You don’t have to shoot at people.
Gideon Resnick: Yeah. Look, we’re not your parents. We’re going to tell you what to do, but we’re going to make suggestions like this from time to time. OK? Get it together. [pause] OK, quick little heads up before we get started, we are taking off on Monday for President’s Day. We are going to be back in your feeds on Tuesday. Do not worry. But now on today’s show. It is a good one. We are talking to none other than Dr. Anthony Fauci about vaccines and variants. Then some headlines.
Akilah Hughes: But first, the latest.
President Biden: We’re now on track to have enough supply for 300 million Americans by the end of July. It may not sound like the urgent progress we need, but let’s be clear, when I took office just three weeks ago, this country did not have a plan.
Akilah Hughes: Yeah, he’s not wrong, but hopefully we do get those vaccines and I can actually have a birthday party this year. But that was a masked-up President Biden speaking yesterday at the National Institutes of Health, where he announced that the government has now purchased another 200 million doses of Moderna and Pfizer vaccines. He said that the expectation is that those doses will be delivered by the end of July, at which point the United States would have enough to vaccinate every single eligible American. We did it! [laughs] As you heard a little bit in the clip there, Biden also spoke about the, quote “mess he had inherited from the previous administration.” And the announcement came on the same day that Los Angeles said it would have to temporarily shut down several of its mass vaccination sites due to shortages.
Gideon Resnick: Yeah, so bumps in the road for now, but good news ahead. And while Biden was at the NIH, he also met with some of the leading scientists working on the front lines, which included Dr. Anthony Fauci, who is now Biden’s chief medical advisor for COVID-19 and, of course, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and someone we fondly refer to as, Tony The Voice. [laughing] Earlier of the day, Dr. Fauci said that most of the general public could become eligible for vaccines as soon as April. And from there, it’s going to take months to administer them. And then also earlier in the day, we got a chance to speak to him about the vaccines that are on the way, what they’ll mean as we start to face new variants, and mask guidance in the meantime. Here’s that conversation.
Akilah Hughes: Dr. Fauci, thank you so much for being here. We are so excited to talk to you.
Dr. Anthony Fauci: My pleasure. Good to be with you.
Gideon Resnick: Thank you so much. So I want to start with some questions about vaccines. It’s obviously great news that we have them and that they have shown such high levels of effectiveness. But when do you think we’ll know definitively whether the vaccines reduce or fully eliminate transmission?
Dr. Anthony Fauci: Well, that probably is going to take at least another few months and perhaps longer because the primary endpoints for both the Moderna and the Pfizer vaccine, and essentially for virtually all the other vaccines, is whether it prevents symptomatic disease, in other words, whether you get symptoms from it. And as you know, that the efficacy of that is really quite striking. It’s about 94 to 95 percent. What you don’t know, and you can’t tell on first blush, is whether or not a person gets infected, but because they’re vaccinated they get no symptoms but they still have some level of virus in their nasal pharynx. So there are two ways to definitively figure out whether or not that person can transmit. The first one is the easier one and it isn’t as definitive. And that is you go back and you take a look at people who are infected with no symptoms but have been vaccinated, and you compare them to people who are infected with no symptoms who have not been vaccinated. And if the people who are vaccinated have a remarkably lower level of virus in the nasal pharynx, you can extrapolate and make a reasonable assumption that you’ve diminished the likelihood that they’re going to transmit. That’s the indirect way. The direct way is to do that same thing, but to do it in cohort studies, such as in college dormitories, where there’s a transmission from one to the other, you can sequence the virus and show that the transmissions that occurred came from the people who were not vaccinated versus from the people who were vaccinated. And that’s the most definitive way to show that. So in a couple of months, we likely will know indirectly, but probably six months or so it’ll take to know it definitely.
Akilah Hughes: Yeah. For sure. Well, because of variants, there’s been a lot of talk about these vaccine booster shots. I’m not complaining, I will take as many shots as I need to take. But do you think vaccines are going to end up being a yearly thing like the flu shot? Is that the new normal that we’re kind of shooting for?
Dr. Anthony Fauci: Well, that’s conceivable. We don’t know that yet. I would not be surprised if, for a period of time we would have to give an occasional booster to get, one, a more complete protection in the global community and number two, to get to the point where the level is so low that you don’t really have much transmission. Sort of what we did with smallpox, with polio and with measles. But one of the things that I think leans towards the need to continue to have to vaccinate people, is that if you don’t get the global level of infection down, there will always be a threat of variants arising wherever: Africa, Asia, South America. And then even though you think you’re protected in this country, by importation of virus someone comes into the country with a variant that is not protected by the vaccine, then you got a problem. That would lead to what you’re alluding to is the possibility it might sort of like be what we have to do with influenza. I hope that’s not the case, and I believe that we can avoid it if we do a good job of getting the whole world vaccinated with effective vaccines.
Akilah Hughes: Yeah, that’s right.
Gideon Resnick: Yeah. There is that obvious importance to making sure it’s not just the United States or nations that have access to it. And we hear a lot about the variants that were first discovered in the UK, South Africa, and then to a lesser extent, Brazil. Are there any other variants that you’re particularly concerned about, and how much are we in the dark about all of this right now?
Dr. Anthony Fauci: Well, I always take seriously any variant that has a functional component to it. You know, most of the mutations that occur, probably the overwhelming majority of mutations, really don’t have any functional relevance. They don’t impact whether a virus is more or less contagious, whether it’s more or less virulent, whether you escape the protection of antibodies. But every once in a while, you do get a mutation, or a constellation of mutations, and it’s usually not just one single mutation. I mean, we talk about mutants, but there are probably five, six or seven or more mutations that lead to that new lineage. The fact is that, that particular approach of changes is going to elude protection intermittently. It’s not going to be . . . as long as the virus replicates it’s going to mutate. So, you know, there’s an interesting dictum in virology: the best way to prevent mutation is to stop replication. And when you’re dealing with a transmissible virus, the best way to stop replication is to vaccinate as many people as you possibly can so that you don’t give the virus the opportunity to mutate.
Gideon Resnick: And on the point of using the vaccines against the variants, should we be surging vaccines to areas of the country with larger outbreaks, or areas with more of the newer variants right now?
Dr. Anthony Fauci: Well, you know what’s going to happen, I think this was part of your previous question about a booster type, if it looks like it’s clear enough that there’s enough penetrance of a virus that isn’t fully protected by the vaccine, such as the South African isolate—I think that the UK isolate, we’re in pretty good shape when it comes to that—but if we get a dominant prevalence of the South African, it is conceivable that we may need, and we’re already preparing for that—we want to stay one step ahead of the game—is to make a booster that expresses the spike protein of the new variant as opposed to the standard spike protein. So that may be six months or a year down the line. You get people who were vaccinated, but you give them a boost, which is a boost expressing the variant that you’re worried about. I think that’s conceivable. We haven’t done it yet, but we’re preparing for the eventuality of having to do that.
Akilah Hughes: Yeah. I mean, personally I would like for this to not ever happen again. [laughs] So what do we actually need to put in place so it doesn’t? Is it just an ongoing pandemic task force, or is it just rejoining the World Health Organization? Like, what steps do you actually want to see taken?
Dr. Anthony Fauci: Well, all of those things that you mentioned are important. I mean, obviously, we want to be part of the global community. We want to have global surveillance. You know, there were there were attempts, partially successful some time ago, to get a global network, which is under the category of the Global Health Security Network, where you get communications between countries so that when you see a new emerging pathogen arrive, immediately, you identify it, you communicate with the rest of the world and you begin to develop as quickly as possible vaccines and therapeutics against it. You cannot prevent the emergence of a new infection. That usually, almost always, not always but almost always, is is part of what we call the animal-human interface, where we encroach upon the environment, as we did with H.I.V.-AIDS in chimpanzees, as we did with wet markets, having live animals. And that’s how things happened in China. Ebola, when you have people going into bat caves and things like that. So if we can essentially pay more attention to not encroaching inappropriately on that animal-human interface, at the same time as we develop universal approaches like a universal vaccine against a certain prototype, or a universal antiviral against a certain prototype, we can respond much better. Like I said, we’re not going to prevent the emergence, but we want to prevent the emergence from becoming a pandemic. And that’s where we can do something.
Akilah Hughes: I promise to leave the bats alone. [laughs] I won’t do it.
Gideon Resnick: Same here. You have you have our pledge. I wanted to ask also one more quickly about the variants of concern here that are functionally more contagious. Most of them, to our knowledge, sprung up in the last few months or around a year into the pandemic. What does that tell you about the pace of mutations within this virus? And is it good news that it took about a year for these to actually become to a level where they were quite concerning?
Dr. Anthony Fauci: I’m not surprised it took that long because what probably happened, at least in South Africa, is that the standard wild-type virus infected people who were immunosuppressed, because there’s a lot of H.I.V.-infected people in South Africa, a substantial double digit percentage of the population. And what happens is that the virus is not readily cleared from people who are profoundly immunosuppressed. And what happens is, that if you don’t clear the virus right away, the virus starts to do things to prevent itself from being cleared. And it’s a selective pressure on the immune system, of the immune system, to get the virus to mutate. That almost certainly happened to some degree in South Africa. So that’s the, what we suspect went on in South Africa.
Gideon Resnick: And shifting gears quickly to some new guidance from the CDC, recently they were talking about the fit of a surgical mask and they were even suggesting double masking. If it was difficult to get people to put on one mask, how do you suggest here conveying this to the public, getting people to wear two if they need to?
Dr. Anthony Fauci: Well, you know, if you look carefully at the CDC’s recommendation, they’re saying very definitively: everybody should wear a mask. One mask is important. However, and there’s a however, if you want to get a better fit and dot every i and cross every t and prevent the virus from sneaking in, you might consider, you notice they don’t make it an absolute recommendation, they urge you to consider double masking. So if this is a regular mask, the standard type, what happens is that under here it’s open and over here it might be. So what they say to do, is to take a regular cloth mask, not that the cloth mask is better than this mask, but if you put it on and go like that, you get a much better fit. So there aren’t these open spaces here. So right now you have a double mask. But really what it’s doing is that is giving you a better seal. And that really is the essence of their recent recommendations.
Akilah Hughes: Well, we are coming up on Valentine’s Day. So you have any public health or relationship advice that you’d like to give to our listeners? You know, we like to ask you about something that you don’t have to talk about all the time. So any advice would be great.
Dr. Anthony Fauci: Yeah. I mean, if you’re going to come home with some candy or flowers and you want to give a big hug and a kiss to somebody, make sure it’s somebody that’s either part of your household or someone that you know very, very well is being very careful about not getting infected. I mean, I think that even though there are situations where you would like to gather, you know, we’ve just been through that with Thanksgiving, with Christmas and New Year’s. But we still are in a danger zone and we still need to maintain distance, wear a mask, avoid congregate settings. Hopefully as the number of new infections go down, and if you look at the chart, it’s really dramatically going down. I mean, just a month or so ago, we were getting 300 to 400 thousand new infections a day. Yesterday was, I think, the first day in a quite a long time that it was less than 100,000 per day. So we’re going in the right direction. Now is not the time to pull back. Now’s the time to maintain a real intensity of public health adherence to public health measures.
Akilah Hughes: Yeah, that’s right. Well, Dr. Fauci, thank you so much for taking all of our questions. We really appreciate it. We’re big fans over here at WAD. Thank you.
Dr. Anthony Fauci: My pleasure. Thank you for having me.
Akilah Hughes: Ah. It was wonderful. I’m just, I’m still so star-struck. Well, we also have a video of the interview where you can see the big moment when Dr. Fauci met my new little puppy named Fauci. I know you’ve all been asking me about it on Twitter. So, yes, it happened. Go to YouTube.com/crooked media to check it out.
Akilah Hughes: It’s Friday, WAD squad, and for today’s temp check, we’re talking about ways to get the public excited about staying healthy. Mascots have been used around the world this past year to spread awareness about coronavirus and encourage people to get vaccinated. A recent Washington Post article rounded up some of the best ones. There’s Koronon, a pink cat with a face mask who’s been spotted in Japan. Covid-kun a puffy red COVID particle with sharp teeth from Thailand, and Joseph Droplet from Brazil, a white Casper-looking guy who was first created to promote the polio vaccine. So I guess he’s getting some work now. Gideon, my question for you, what’s your pitch for a pro vaccine anti-COVID mascot for the U.S.?
Gideon Resnick: One word. It’s Gritty. Gritty.
Akilah Hughes: Just Gritty. [laughs]
Gideon Resnick: Greedy represents the true American energy. Chaotic. It’s a mess. He looks a little bit like the spike protein just because, you know, all the orange hair is kind of flying in every direction.
Akilah Hughes: Oh for sure.
Gideon Resnick: You get a Gritty masked up across the country, vaccinations, they’re going through the roof.
Akilah Hughes: I mean, I don’t think you’re wrong, but Gritty just strikes me as so reckless, you know. Like not the Gritty wouldn’t wear a mask. I believe that Gritty is responsible. I just think that, you know, Gritty might be a little too close to people and stuff. [laughs] He’s just, he’s a lot.
Gideon Resnick: Yeah. I think that we would have to, we’d have to have a sit down with Gritty, you know, tell him the rules. But I think that his recklessness speaks to our recklessness as a nation. That’s fair. And then there would be, you know, some sort of communal understanding. They’re like, oh, even he’s wearing the mask. Even he’s encouraging the vaccinations and stuff. I think that, you know, we get everybody on the same page pretty quickly. That’s just like the first like, not super terrible thing that I think could represent the United States. So why not?
Akilah Hughes: You know, I you won me over. If this is Shark Tank, I would be like, all right, the sharks are in [laughs]. You get a million dollars to get Gritty masked up, it’s worth it.
Gideon Resnick: I appreciate your early investment in this plan and I won’t forget it. But same question for you. Who are you thinking here?
Akilah Hughes: OK, so I was going to come up with my own mascot. But, you know, just after seeing your wonderful display and really believing in Gritty’s power, you know, I think that we could go with some property that isn’t original. How about Osmosis Jones?
Gideon Resnick: Oh!
Akilah Hughes: Where has he been? Since that flu he had to fight? It’s been a long time.
Gideon Resnick: He was our original public health warrior, actually. You know.
Akilah Hughes: Totally, and I think like—sorry, go ahead.
Gideon Resnick: No, there’s we learned a lot about, you know, the nasty inner workings of the human body via Osmosis Jones. So he has a lot of information to impart.
Akilah Hughes: Totally. And I think, you know, he’s a really great mascot for kids. When I was in high school, when my biology teacher would be, like, super tired and didn’t want to teach. He’d just be like, let’s watch Osmosis Jones again. [laughs] And we were always like, yes! So I think that it’s something we can all get behind and we all have good memories of that movie. Why not?
Gideon Resnick: Yeah, there’s the nostalgia factor. Who played Osmosis Jones?
Akilah Hughes: Was it Chris Rock. Am I wrong about this?
Gideon Resnick: That’s what I, that’s what I thought.
Akilah Hughes: I’m going to Google it, you know, just for posterity sake.
Gideon Resnick: Yes.
Akilah Hughes: [typing] Who played Osmosis Jones? A real thing that people will see in my Googled. It was Chris Rock.
Gideon Resnick: There you go. Yeah.
Akilah Hughes: Also, all-star cast: Bill Murray, Chris Rock, Laurence Fishburne, Brandy, William Shatner, Ron Howard, Kid Rock. Come on.
Gideon Resnick: Also chaotic, also very American. I, this is, I think this is great. I think either or both of these options. Maybe there’s like a, uh, in-person component with Gritty. Maybe there’s like a video you watch with Osmosis Jones.
Akilah Hughes: Totally.
Gideon Resnick: The options are limitless.
Akilah Hughes: You know, I think we’ve solved it. And just like that, we have checked our temps. They’re very cool, like Osmosis Jones and Gritty. [laughs] Stay safe and we’ll be back after some ads.
Akilah Hughes: Let’s wrap up with some headlines.
Gideon Resnick: House managers wrapped up their final arguments yesterday in Trump’s second impeachment trial, arguing that the former president could be a threat in the future if he isn’t convicted and barred from running for federal office. Democrats continue to share evidence that rioters were inspired by Trump when they stormed the Capitol on January 6. New videos revealed writers shouting, quote: “fight for Trump” during the attack. And in one video, a rioter was filmed telling an officer, quote: “We’re listening to Trump, your boss.” Yikes. On top of all that, there were court documents and interviews where rioters defended their actions by citing Trump’s directives.
Akilah Hughes: Dang.
Gideon Resnick: Managers also shared words from former White House officials who resigned after the event, and preemptively shot down a Trump’s team’s defense that his remarks are protected under the First Amendment. Trump’s team is set to present their case today and reportedly their portion could be pretty quick. Wonder why?
Akilah Hughes: Yeah. They’re probably going to be like: uh, ignore everything you just saw, please. Well, for the first time ever, queer and trans Americans will be protected under the Fair Housing Act. Awesome. Yesterday, the Department of Housing and Urban Development announced that it’ll be enforcing the FHA to ban discrimination against LGBTQ individuals. Last year, the Supreme Court ruled that laws against discrimination on the basis of sex should extend to discrimination on the basis of gender identity and sexual orientation. Then, President Biden signed an executive order directing all federal agencies to implement that ruling. HUD is the first federal agency to act on this order. Queer and trans Americans experience disproportionate discrimination when trying to find housing. One study in 2017, found that trans and gender nonconforming people were less likely to be offered financial incentives to rent, and more likely to be quoted a higher rental price than cis renters. Under the new doctrine, LGBTQ Americans will be able to file complaints with HUD if they’ve been discriminated against.
Gideon Resnick: Good. The fight for national unity suffered a major setback yesterday after Bruce Springsteen’s DUI led Jeep to pull their commercial, where he told everyone to stop fighting and be more like a church in the middle of Kansas. For some context here: a Super Bowl ad featured Springsteen driving a jeep towards a small Midwestern church while extolling the virtue of the middle, the place between, I guess, Americans who want people to be treated with dignity and Americans who think the walls of the Capitol should be made out of paper so it’s easier to do fascism in there. That’s what it is. The ad was always bad, but it became a liability on Wednesday when the news broke that Springsteen was arrested for drunk driving in New Jersey last November. That was enough for Jeep to pull the commercial off of YouTube. Yesterday, more details about the DUI charge emerged. The arresting officer’s report says Springsteen took a Patron shot from a bottle before getting on his motorcycle, and that during the arrest he was visibly swaying back and forth. But then, a different source familiar with the case said Springsteen’s blood alcohol content was .02, which is one quarter of the legal limit. We will have to wait and see how this all shakes out. And we trust that the hard working journalists of New Jersey won’t let their personal feelings about the boss get in the way of reporting the truth.
Akilah Hughes: Yeah, come on, guys, keep it together. It turns out Trump wasn’t just breathing hard for effect in the videos from last October, and his case of COVID-19 was actually more serious than he led the American people to believe. Guys, it’s legal to say this now that he’s retired, the 47th president is a liar. So according to new reports from The New York Times, officials thought Trump would have to be put on a ventilator and he was shown to have lung infiltrates, which are associated with acute cases of COVID. Trump’s blood oxygen level also reportedly dipped into the 80s, something that his physician, Dr. Sean Conley, refused to admit at the time. Anyway, Trump probably will want to dispute the story, and he has every right to. We invite him to make his voice heard on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, Squarespace, Poshmark, Epson Printer Customer Support Hub, or by leaning out the window and yelling. Whatever he wants.
Gideon Resnick: Yeah, I’ve been refreshing Epson Printer Customer Support for weeks and I have not gotten an answer from the former president. It’s time.
Akilah Hughes: [laughs] Well, we’ll figure it out soon. And those are the headlines.
Akilah Hughes: One last thing before we go, there’s a new episode of Rubicon, The First 100 Days of the Biden Presidency out today. In it, Crooked Editor in Chief Brian Beutler speaks to Ruth Ben-Ghiat about accountability, how to get true justice for the Trump era, and what needs to be done to stop any future authoritarian wannabes.
Gideon Resnick: That is all for today, if you like the show, make sure you subscribe, leave a review, connect with us on Epson Printer Customer Support Hub please, and tell your friends to listen.
Akilah Hughes: And if you’re into reading, and not just restraining orders against Cupid, like me, What A Day is also a nightly newsletter. Check it out. Subscribe at Crooked.com/subscribe. I’m Akilah Hughes.
Gideon Resnick: I’m Gideon Resnick.
both And have a happy Valentine’s Day.
Akilah Hughes: Yeah, I hope that you get all the chocolate, and if somebody else doesn’t give it to you, I have to get it for yourself.
Gideon Resnick: I hope a Cupid delivers Moderna to your door.
Akilah Hughes: [laughs] What A Day is a production of crooked media.
Gideon Resnick: It’s recorded and mixed by Charlotte Landes.
Akilah Hughes: Sonia Htoon is our assistant producer.
Gideon Resnick: Our head writer is Jon Millstein and our executive producers are Katie Long, Akilah Hughes and me.
Akilah Hughes: Our theme music is by Colin Gilliard and Kashaka.