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Mike Krzyzewski and Anthony Fauci sit down to compare COVID-19 to basketball

 It’s an unexpected pairing of two former point guards—Duke men’s basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski and Anthony Fauci. 

Fauci is the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and a prominent member of the White House Coronavirus Task Force. The former high school point guard appeared on the last episode of Krzyzewski’s “Basketball and Beyond with Coach K” radio show April 2. Integrating sports and health care, the two discussed the key plays to win against the global COVID-19 pandemic.

“We’re trying to do what every team member of the U.S. team should be doing and trying to stay safe, strong and patient,” Krzyzewski said in his introduction. 

Fauci underscored that the most important tool currently available for fighting the pandemic is not vaccines or treatments under development but rather maintaining physical separation of 6 feet or more. He added that youth also play a crucial role in fighting the virus. While COVID-19 has the worst impact on the elderly and immunocompromised, Fauci said that actions of insensitive youth could be the reason that the current pandemic continues to cause devastation. 

He added that it is critical to know what the penetration of infection is in the country. The key lies in being able to identify those who are infected but unaware of it so that “contact tracing” can be conducted, Fauci said.

“When you don’t know that, it’s a big black box,” he said. “We’ve gotta shine a light on that big black box and get that information.”

However, testing—or even identification—has always been a tricky aspect of eliminating viruses. According to Fauci, another method of slowing COVID-19 is ensuring a continuous supply of masks. It is important that the general public doesn’t deprive health care workers of masks, he said.

Krzyzewski and Fauci also discussed various research efforts by universities across the nation, emphasizing that “connectivity” among them is essential to winning against the pandemic. Duke, for example, recently announced a $50 million study—HERO—aimed at measuring health care worker exposure response and outcomes. 

From testing to identification to treatment, Fauci said that all pieces of the puzzle must come together to fight COVID-19. A “meeting of minds”—with minimal physical interaction—is humanity’s greatest weapon against this pandemic, he said.

Relating the fight against COVID-19 to a basketball game, Fauci admitted then that “we’re not even at halftime.” He added the dark truth that there will likely be a second phase to this virus. Whether it be in the fall or winter, he emphasized that it is important to ensure the next cycle of the virus is less damaging than the first. 

Fauci also praised the health care workers across the country who are putting their lives on the line to save others—much like those in the military. Krzyzewski, a West Point graduate, pointed out that medical professionals have very little time for rejuvenation in their current repetitive battle. 

To help lessen the burden of health care workers, Fauci encouraged people to take the necessary precautions to keep themselves safe and healthy and to not be “part of the system” that the health care community must take care of. 

“We can do this,” Fauci asserted. “We are a strong nation.”


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