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OPINION

In Fauci, we trust – and these top Miami doctors

By FABIOLA SANTIAGO | Miami Herald | Published: July 17, 2020

Thank you, universe, for Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease specialist.

Where would we be in poorly led, COVID-ravaged Florida without Fauci’s consistent advice to take the highly infectious virus seriously? We all would be swimming in the petri dish of ignorance and denial that our mediocre local, state and federal leaders have cultivated by downplaying the dire facts.

But Fauci and our own dynamic duo of infectious disease experts, Drs. Aileen Marty and Lilian Abbo, are filling in for Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and — in the coronavirus hot spot of Miami-Dade, for Mayor Carlos Gimenez — with clarity and truth-telling.

“Miami is now the epicenter of the pandemic,” Abbo said during a virtual press conference Monday. Meanwhile, DeSantis and Gimenez were engaged in more of the mixed and dismissive messaging that has characterized their mandates. Sure, it’s bad, but it’s because we’re testing more, said the governor.

“In Florida, we’ve tested more in one day than some countries,” DeSantis boasted as Floridians wait in hourslong lines and wait several days for test results.

Sure, it’s bad, but it’s the house parties and vacation rentals, said Gimenez, ignoring other reasons, including his premature opening and confusing flip-flops on guidelines.

On the side of truth and reality, there was Abbo, who leads the infectious disease team at the Jackson Health System. She went straight to the heart of the matter.

“What we were seeing in Wuhan six months ago, now we are there,” Abbo said, evoking the first images of sick and dying people that many are reticent to relate to Florida, the new epicenter of the coronavirus pandemic.

But that’s who we are now, Wuhan redux. Unnecessarily, so. It should blow your mind.

Thank you, universe, for Dr. Lilian Abbo.

Do you now get the urgency to wear masks, to social distance, to wash your hands, deniers? If the constant bad news out of Florida doesn’t jolt you out of complacency, then you’re probably emotionally unavailable to receive any advice.

Last Sunday, the state saw the highest daily spike in confirmed coronavirus cases any state has experienced during the pandemic. At 15,300 cases, we broke the record set in New York.

“Extremely grave,” Florida International University epidemiologist Dr. Aileen Marty called our predicament, pointing out that the public isn’t taking the virus seriously enough.

People are ignoring rules against taking part in large gatherings, on proper social distancing and wearing masks in public places, said Marty, who has lent her expertise around the world. Before the coronavirus, she spent a month working with the World Health Organization on the Ebola epidemic in Nigeria.

As a result, hospitals and health care workers are strained again in Miami-Dade, this time even worse than during the first go-around in spring. COVID-19 patients are occupying 98% of ICU beds, and the National Guard has been recalled to operate, where necessary, a field hospital at the Miami Beach Convention Center.

Thank you, universe, for medical pros who tell it like it is, like Dr. Aileen Marty. We need these experts. They should be the ones driving policy, not politicos turning a deadly disease that can leave organ damage for life into a contest of political preferences.

We should all be in this one together, Florida, but we’re not — and on Tuesday we broke another grim record, adding 132 deaths for a statewide death toll to 4,409. The total of confirmed coronavirus cases almost reached 300,000.

As of this writing, Miami-Dade had 69,803 confirmed cases and 1,175 deaths. The Chinese province of Wuhan reported 50,000 cases and 3,800 deaths before numbers began to flatten in April.

There’s something wrong at the top in Florida when experts have to shake people — and politicians by the lapels — by measuring our suffering against that of the birthplace of COVID-19.

There’s something wrong when the president sidelines Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and a veteran of the war on HIV, and launches an underhanded campaign to smear his reputation.

There’s something wrong when those who lead keep seeking the limelight, holding press conferences and solving nothing.

“Shame on you!” activist Thomas Kennedy shouted at DeSantis, who was ineptly managing the crisis via another public-relations effort at Jackson Memorial, which needs more personnel and funding, not mere words.

So, stand up, put down your phone and give a standing ovation to those who tell us the truth, come what may, the nation’s top doctors. In Fauci, we trust — and in top Miami-Dade Drs. Marty and Abbo, too. Listen to them, now more than ever.

Fabiola Santiago is a Miami Herald columnist.

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