Dr. Fauci and Mr. National discuss coronavirus, baseball, Brad Pitt’s Brooklyn accent

Dr. Anthony Fauci has been the face of America’s response to infectious diseases since the Reagan administration. Ryan Zimmerman has been the face of the Washington Nationals since the team arrived in D.C.

So, perhaps it only makes sense that the seemingly unlikely duo would sit down for an interview Wednesday, covering deeply serious topics, such as the new coronavirus and its impact on the region, to the more lighthearted, such as Brad Pitt’s recent turn portraying Fauci on an at-home episode of Saturday Night Live.

Zimmerman lobbed the questions and Fauci knocked them back, starting with how the D.C. region has responded to the coronavirus pandemic and its efforts to flatten the curve.

“We certainly got hit with a surge of cases, Ryan,” Fauci said. “Not nearly as bad as New York City, which has really got hit bad.”

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Fauci said that the overall layout of the two cities affected the spread of the virus, particularly because D.C.’s population is more spread out, but also because the people of the region took the lockdown orders seriously and responded effectively.

“A lot has to do, I think, with the spirit of our citizens in very seriously adapting what we call the ‘mitigation phase,’ which is the physical separation,” Fauci said. “Which has the good effect of keeping people physically separated from each other and hence decreasing the likelihood but has the secondary effect of disrupting normal life, which you have to accept that until you get things under control and then very gradually work your way back to normality.”

Fauci also praised D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser’s response to the virus and the steps her administration has taken to keep the people of the District safe.

Fauci compared the country’s early mishaps and slow response to recognize how disruptive the virus could be to the rocky start the Nats had in their World Series-winning season.

“The Nats, in the beginning of the season, there were people like me who loved them so much that said, ‘OK, you’re messing up in the beginning of the season, but you’re getting better and better and better,’ and you won the World Series,” Fauci said.

Fauci told Zimmerman that he was encouraged at the progress that the U.S. private sector had made in creating tests, PPE and fighting the virus.

Zimmerman also wanted to know Fauci’s thoughts on the possibility of a somewhat regular season of baseball being played in 2020.

“I think there is a pathway there,” Fauci said, but it would depend on how people kept up their social distancing efforts as the virus begins to recede.

“If we do that successfully and there’s no major outbreaks, I could foresee any of a number of scenarios,” where baseball returns, Fauci said.

He added that he would love to see the return of America’s pastime, partly because he is such a fan himself and because he believes it would be good for the people of the country.

On a personal note, Zimmerman asked Fauci what effect the virus may have on newborns or pregnant women. Zimmerman’s wife, Heather Zimmerman, is eight months pregnant with their third child and first boy.

“It’s interesting … unlike influenza — which is really bad for pregnant women and can often lead to bad pregnancy outcomes — in the cases from China and some of the cases from Europe, it does not appear that this virus has a really bad effect on pregnancies,” Fauci said.

The pair also talked about Brad Pitt’s appearance on SNL as Fauci.

“He got my gravely voice from speaking too much — this isn’t my normal voice — he got my hand motions right, but he’s gotta work on his Brooklyn accent a little bit better, I think,” Fauci said, laughing.

Watch the full interview online.

Zeke Hartner

Zeke Hartner is a digital writer/editor who has been with WTOP since 2017. He is a graduate of North Carolina State University’s Political Science program and an avid news junkie.

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