As the N.B.A.’s hiatus extended into its third week on Thursday, Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry made use of his off time by hosting an Instagram Live discussion about the coronavirus with Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and the most visible medical figure in the U.S. during the outbreak.
“You need to see the trajectory of the curve start to come down,” Dr. Fauci told Curry, in response to a question about when mass gatherings like sporting events might be able to return. “We’ve seen that in China: They’ve gone up and down. They’re starting to get back to some normal life.”
Curry, with almost 30 million Instagram followers, looms large on social media. Former President Barack Obama, an avid basketball fan, was among the more than 50,000 people who watched live as Curry directed questions to Dr. Fauci, who has quickly become a celebrity himself. Dr. Fauci also served under Obama, who sent a hand wave emoji as Curry began the session.
The roughly 30-minute interview covered many of the topics that Dr. Fauci has addressed at length through briefings and interviews in recent weeks: the importance of social distancing; what makes the coronavirus different from the seasonal flu; and why it is “significantly more serious.” Dr. Fauci, with a miniature basketball hoop behind him, also emphasized that “young people like yourself,” referring to the 32-year-old Curry, should not feel “exempt” from risk, even though the virus tends to be most severe in older people.
The grand point that Dr. Fauci wanted to make: “This is serious business,” he said. “We are not overreacting.”
Curry told Dr. Fauci that he wanted to conduct the interview to reach people who were not adhering to social distancing guidelines, citing “crazy public gatherings” at beaches and parks. He also discussed having flulike symptoms in early March and getting tested “pretty much right away,” two days before the N.B.A. season was postponed. The test showed that Curry had not been infected by the coronavirus. The league has been criticized because several entire teams, including their asymptomatic players, have been tested while many people in the U.S. with serious symptoms have not been able to be screened.
Dr. Fauci said that the private sector had greatly increased access to tests for the general public, but that weeks ago, “we were not at a place that we needed to be or wanted to be.”
At least 10 N.B.A. players, including Kevin Durant, one of Curry’s former teammates, have contracted the virus. Karl-Anthony Towns, a center for the Minnesota Timberwolves, released an emotional video on Tuesday revealing that his mother was in a medically induced coma because of complications from the coronavirus.
Last week, N.B.A. Commissioner Adam Silver said the season would be suspended for at least 30 days. The league has discussed several options for continuing the season, from playing in smaller venues without fans to waiting several months to restart and playing into August. Both the delay and a potential cancellation could have severe financial ramifications for the league, the players and others who depend on games for income, like restaurants near arenas and in-game workers.
Curry asked Dr. Fauci about the risks of lifting the social distancing restrictions to help an economic rebound. President Trump has pushed for the resumption of normal business activities within weeks, a timeline that has elicited sharp rebukes from public health officials. Dr. Fauci seemed to support a compromise of sorts.
“It is not an all-or-none process,” he said, adding: “Even if you kind of lessen those restrictions, everybody, until this is over, should practice some degree of physical distancing and care. Not big crowds. Wash your hands a lot. Be careful. You can do that and still get back to somewhat of a normal life. There’s a big difference between the extreme of locking a city down and opening it up a bit but being more careful than you normally would be.”
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