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Top US Health Official Rips Ron Johnson’s Coronavirus Comments

'That's Totally Way Out,' Says Dr. Anthony Fauci


One of the nation’s top public health officials leading the fight against the new coronavirus said Friday that recent comments from Wisconsin Republican U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson were “way out.”

Johnson said in a Tuesday interview with the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that the public needed to keep the COVID-19 disease in perspective, telling the newspaper that “we don’t shut down our economy because tens of thousands of people die on the highways.” Johnson also said that “getting coronavirus is not a death sentence except for maybe no more than 3.4 percent of our population (and) I think probably far less.”

At Friday’s White House press briefing, Anthony Fauci, the head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said it was “false equivalency” to compare traffic accidents to potential deaths from COVID-19.

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“I mean that’s totally way out,” Fauci said.

“When you have something that is new and it’s emerging and you really can’t predict totally the impact it’s going to have, and you take a look at what’s gone on in China and you see what’s going on right now — right now — in Italy, and what’s happening in New York City, I don’t think with any moral conscience you could say ‘Why don’t we just let it rip and happen and let X percent of the people die,” Fauci said.

Fauci, who has served under six presidents, was asked to address the question by Republican President Donald Trump, who also disputed Johnson.

“You could be talking about millions of lives,” Trump said. “You know, you’re talking about hundreds of thousands and maybe more than that numbers of people.”

For context, 3.4 percent of the United States population would be roughly 11.2 million people, while 1 percent would represent about 3.3 million people.

Johnson has said people should follow the government’s social distancing guidelines, but he’s also cautioned that widespread shutdowns could have a devastating effect on the nation’s economy.

In Friday’s briefing, Trump suggested that could be fixed later.

“We can bring our finances back very quickly,” Trump said. “We can’t bring the people back.”