Barack Obama joins Stephen Curry's coronavirus session with Dr. Anthony Fauci

Dan Woike
LA Times

Stephen Curry, the Golden State Warriors star guard and two-time NBA most valuable player, hosted coronavirus expert Dr. Anthony Fauci for a 30-minute conversation Thursday — a talk that reached an average of 50,000 people as it aired.

Former President Barack Obama was one of the people commenting along as Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, answered a series of questions from Curry, who conducted the Instagram chat in an effort to spread awareness about the COVID-19 pandemic to a different “demographic” than the ones taking things in through traditional media.

“We’ve got to make that point,” Fauci said to Curry. “This is serious business.”

On the day when the United States became the global leader in coronavirus cases, Fauci, sitting in his office with a basketball hoop on the wall behind him, reiterated some key principles in the fight against the virus — increasing education, understanding about social distancing and preparing for a prolonged battle.

Curry opened the session by asking Fauci how COVID-19 is different from the flu — a common comparison among people who try to downplay the seriousness of coronavirus.

“The reason it's different is that it’s very, very much more transmissible than the flu and, more importantly, it’s significantly more serious,” Fauci said.

Curry said videos showing clusters of people at beaches and parks have led him to believe that there needs to be a greater sense of urgency to address the spread of COVID-19. Curry, though, like so many people, wanted to know when normalcy might return.

“What you need to see is the trajectory of the curve start to come down,” Fauci said. “… We can start think about getting back to some degree of normality when the country as a whole has turned that corner and started coming down. Then you can pinpoint cases much more easily instead of getting overwhelmed by cases, which is happening in New York City.”

Curry, who had flu symptoms before the NBA shutdown and took a COVID-19 test, also asked Fauci about testing availability, something he said is improving. He also asked Fauci about the fate for people who have the virus and recover, and whether they can get it a second time.

The testing on that hasn’t specifically been done, Fauci said, “but if this acts like every virus similar to it that we know, the chances are overwhelming that if you get infected, recover from infection, that you are not going to get infected with the same virus.”

Fauci discussed why you treat what’s happening in New York different than you would in Nebraska, that lockdown isn’t an all-or-nothing proposition. Everyone has a role to play in fighting this.

“Everybody, until this is over, should practice some degree of physical distancing and care — no big crowds, wash your hands a lot, be careful,” Fauci said.

Fauci said that if the medical community really pushes, he’s “hopeful” they’ll know whether they have a vaccine that works by next winter, when Fauci expects the virus to cycle back.

“I cannot imagine it’s just going to disappear,” he said.

The level-headed conversation was a departure from the tone of some COVID-19 discussions, and Curry’s Instagram page hosting it caught the attention of one of basketball’s most famous fans in Obama.

“Listen to the science,” Obama commented during the session. “Do your part and take care of each other. Thank you, Steph and Dr. Fauci.”

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