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Barber: Stephen Curry, Anthony Fauci a great combo on coronavirus education

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How To Reduce Your Risk

Local health officials urge practicing good hygiene to reduce the risk of becoming infected with a respiratory virus, such as the flu or coronavirus. This includes:

• Washing hands frequently with soap and water for at least 20 seconds
• Avoid touching your eyes and face
• Cough or sneeze into your sleeved elbow
• Stay home when ill
• Get a flu shot, and it’s not too late this season

Source: Sonoma County Department of Health Services

For more information, go to sonomacounty.ca.gov/Health/Information-About-Coronavirus.

Questions or concerns can be directed to the county’s 24-hour information hotline at 211 or 800-325-9604. You can also text "COVID19" to 211211 for coronavirus information.

For more stories about the coronavirus, go here.

Have you seen the latest feel-good buddy caper on the internet? It stars a wry, laid-back young black man and a buttoned-down, straight-talking older white dude discussing the bigger things in life. Sort of a “Diff’rent Strokes” reunion without the laugh track.

I’m referring to The Steph and Anthony Show, which may be — and definitely should be — an online sensation. Thursday morning, Stephen Curry logged into his Instagram account, looped in Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, and proceeded to ask Fauci questions about the coronavirus and how we should be responding to it, for all the world to see.

I have nothing to substantiate this opinion, but I’m guessing the Curry-Fauci Q&A has done as much to educate the American masses on COVID-19 as any New York Times article, government press conference or CBS News report. It was a crucial piece of signal-boosting precisely when we needed it most.

Granted, Fauci didn’t reveal much you couldn’t find elsewhere if you are willing to do the digging. It wasn’t the information, per se. It was the audience. It would be unfair to pigeonhole 50,000 Instagrammers (there were generally between 43,000 and 52,000 people tuned in to the presentation at any given moment), but I think it’s safe to say not all of them are regular readers of ProPublica or the Atlantic.

This was the definition of a mass audience, one geared toward social media and sports culture. During a situation in which your very health is dependent upon the behavior of literally everyone around you, it’s impossible to overstate how crucial it is for someone like Curry, the beloved Warriors star, to help disseminate truth and logic.

The random nature of the audience was apparent when comments began scrolling up the left side of the screen. Most of the time, pleas such as “Ask him about treating the virus with AIDS drugs” and “When will tests be available for everyone?” were mixed with comments like “Giannis over LeBron for MVP” or, simply, a “Hi Steph” alongside the flag of Israel or Argentina.

Curry couldn’t have selected a better partner than Fauci, who has headed the NIAID since 1984, and who has emerged as the one person you can believe at the presidential dais. Even during Thursday’s Instagram appearance, Fauci clearly established himself as an independent voice. He noted that the coronavirus is up to 10 times as lethal as the common flu, a direct refutation of what Donald Trump has stated at times, and admitted that the United States’ testing capacity was inadequate when the contagion hit.

“Seven weeks ago, we were not where we needed to be,” Fauci said.

All in all, Steph and Tony formed a sensational backcourt combo.

Curry chilled in a gray hoodie. His background was Spartan — window, blank wall, air vent on the ceiling. “My kids are downstairs watching the livestream, eating their breakfast,” he said. Fauci, in the bottom half of a split screen, wore a blue dress shirt and dark tie. He sat in a cluttered office, a stack of books to his right, framed pictures lining his walls, and (was it a nod to Curry?) a small backboard and hoop behind his head.

How To Reduce Your Risk

Local health officials urge practicing good hygiene to reduce the risk of becoming infected with a respiratory virus, such as the flu or coronavirus. This includes:

• Washing hands frequently with soap and water for at least 20 seconds
• Avoid touching your eyes and face
• Cough or sneeze into your sleeved elbow
• Stay home when ill
• Get a flu shot, and it’s not too late this season

Source: Sonoma County Department of Health Services

For more information, go to sonomacounty.ca.gov/Health/Information-About-Coronavirus.

Questions or concerns can be directed to the county’s 24-hour information hotline at 211 or 800-325-9604. You can also text "COVID19" to 211211 for coronavirus information.

For more stories about the coronavirus, go here.

I would have given Curry huge credit even if the production had been a clunker. It still would have counted as an important gesture. As it turned out, the Q&A was fantastic.

I’ve been a little obsessed with COVID-19 since the world turned upside down. I’ve read about it a lot, talked to a couple of medical researchers, devoured all the appropriate charts and timelines. I am not qualified to inform anybody about coronavirus, but I’d like to believe I am in position to ask good questions on the subject. And I’m telling you, I couldn’t have outdone Curry.

Yes, the point guard had solicited questions from his Instagram and Twitter followers. But he wasn’t reading from a list when he spoke to Fauci. Curry was relaxed and impromptu, and he cut right to the heart of how the virus is transmitted and prevented, to social policy and seasonal weather patterns and testing and vaccinations.

“Forgive my ignorance,” Curry said at one point. “You’re testing to understand if you have the virus or not. Is there another process to develop a test to determine if you have the antibodies?”

“Steph, that’s not a stupid question, that’s a smart question,” Fauci replied.

Damn, it was. The whole 40-minute feed was exactly the medicine some of us needed.

“I’d like to get people in this country to realize we are dealing with a serious problem,” Fauci said. “It’s not convenient to lock yourself in. It’s not convenient for you not to be playing basketball. … As a country, we need to come together, don’t be frightened, don’t be intimidated. But use our energy to confront it and put an end to it. We want to get away from these extremes, either the world’s gonna end or we’re not gonna do anything about it. It’s something in the middle.”

Sports never seem more trivial than during a crisis, and this might be the biggest one we’ve faced since World War II. But there’s a weird thing about sports. They can be the worst sort of old boys’ network, yet they often light the way on social issues. Jackie Robinson didn’t invent the civil rights movement, but his debut with the Dodgers reframed race relations in America. Billie Jean King didn’t eliminate a nation of male chauvinist pigs, though you can bet she made a few of them rethink things when she beat Bobby Riggs in a three-set tennis match.

I think you could make a cogent argument that the moment everything recently changed for the U.S. was when Jazz center Rudy Gobert tested positive for COVID-19, two days after making a joke about the virus. The NBA shut down operations immediately after, the NCAA soon followed suit with March Madness and suddenly a theoretical danger became very real to everybody. Sometimes you have to cancel the games to get everyone to take notice.

The fact is, people turn to athletes on issues that go far beyond the playing field. It doesn’t necessarily make sense, but that’s the world we live in. Curry understands that, and he used his platform for the common good. I’ve never been more grateful for an athlete.

God bless Stephen Curry. And God bless Dr. Anthony Fauci. If we can spread common sense as rapidly as the virus, we may get out of this thing in one piece.

You can reach columnist Phil Barber at 707-521-5263 or phil.barber@pressdemocrat.com. Follow him on Twitter: @Skinny_Post.

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