Turning To Experts In A Chaotic Time

Coronavirus crisis puts expertise in command.

Doctors and nurses are the coronavirus heroes, working day and night to assist patients and often putting their own lives at risk. Epidemiologists are the gurus of these difficult times. They set the pace and dictate the rules. They explain what we must—and must not—fear and how we should behave to avoid the worst. Virtually each country has its own coronavirus chief these days, and they often become public figures.

In the United States, that figure is Anthony Stephen Fauci, who has served the US public health system wearing different hats over a career spanning half a century. Fauci, 79, has been the country’s top infectious diseases expert for about 35 years. With the outbreak of coronavirus, or COVID-19, he has become a celebrity of sorts and has attended public events, interviews and TV shows by the dozen. His trademark ability to explain difficult concepts in plain English and to speak frankly has gained him respect and trust from the public.

Born and bred in New York, with Italian roots and a strong Brooklyn accent, Fauci studied upstate at Cornell University. His work spans HIV, Ebola, the Anthrax scare and Zika, but he doesn’t minimize the risks of the ongoing coronavirus crisis. “I do not think that we are going to get out of this completely unscathed,” he told Politico in an interview published at the beginning of March. “I think that this is going to be one of those things we look back and say, boy, that was bad.”

Giovanni Rezza, who turns 66 this month and lives in Italy, is also an immunologist. He gained a good deal of his expertise with the AIDS/HIV crisis as head of the infectious diseases department at the National Institute of Health. Though less visible on media than Fauci, Rezza has also done multiple public appearances discussing the coronavirus mortality rates in Italy compared to China and when Italy might return to normalcy.

In China, meanwhile, epidemiologist Nashan Zhong, although not as public a figure in an official capacity, is considered an authority in the field. Zhong, 83, is the scientist who discovered the SARS coronavirus in 2003 and is highly esteemed and respected by his younger colleagues.