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Grindr hookups during the pandemic? Only if “you’re willing to take a risk,” says Dr. Fauci

Fauci said that it depends on "the level of the interaction that you want to have"

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Anthony S. Fauci, M.D. — Photo: NIH

Dr. Anthony Fauci has a note of caution for anyone debating breaking social distancing for a Grindr hookup: do it at your own risk.

Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and member of the White House’s coronavirus task force, has emerged as a leading voice amid the ongoing pandemic, helping to quash falsehoods and provide answers to questions many Americans have regarding the virus.

Such was the case when Vanity Fair‘s Peter Hamby asked Fauci something that many are apparently considering as lockdowns are extended and human contact becomes taboo: Can I still meet up with that cute guy who tapped me on Grindr?

While Fauci didn’t shut down the idea, he did say that anyone willing to flout social distancing and lockdown measures was doing so at their own risk.

“If you’re swiping on a dating app like Tinder, or Bumble, or Grindr, and you match with someone that you think is hot, and you’re just kind of like, ‘Maybe it’s fine if this one stranger comes over.’ What do you say to that person?” Hamby asked.

“You know, that’s tough,” replied Fauci. “Because it’s what’s called relative risk. If you really feel that you don’t want to have any part of this virus, will you maintain six feet away, wear a mask, do all the things that we talk about in the guidelines? If you’re willing to take a risk — and you know, everybody has their own tolerance for risks — you could figure out if you want to meet somebody.”

Fauci added that it also depends on “the level of the interaction that you want to have.”

“If you’re looking for a friend, sit in a room and put a mask on, and you know, chat a bit,” he continued. “If you want to go a little bit more intimate, well, then that’s your choice regarding a risk.”

Fauci noted that it wasn’t enough for those considering hookups to make sure the other person is feeling well, as recent estimates show that around one in four people who have the virus are asymptomatic — meaning they show no symptoms.

“[If] everybody transmitted would only transmit when they’re sick, that would be much easier,” he said. “But what we’re seeing, which becomes really problematic, is that there’s a considerable amount of transmission from an asymptomatic person.”

Dating apps have taken steps to try and urge users not to meet during the ongoing pandemic, with Grindr asking users to “stay home, stay connected” and offering tips including meeting up virtually with photos and group chats, reaching out to other users for support if you’re feeling lonely, and making plans for the future rather than “Right Now.”

D.C. recently extended its emergency orders for the COVID-19 pandemic through May 15, as well as clarifying guidelines on the usage of face masks while outdoors.

As of writing, there are now almost 2,500 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the District, with the greater Washington region — including Maryland and Virginia — totaling over 21,500 cases. There are 818 confirmed deaths in the region.

In addition to tackling hookups and dating, Dr. Fauci has also been forced to shut down talking points from conservative media figures comparing COVID-19 to HIV — part of ongoing attempts to downplay the severity of the virus and instead push for reopening the economy.

On Thursday, Fauci appeared on Fox News’ The Ingraham Angle. Host Laura Ingraham asked Fauci about whether a vaccine was required in order for COVID-19 restrictions to be lifted.

“Dr. Fauci, on the question of a vaccine: We don’t have a vaccine for SARS…. We don’t have a vaccine for HIV,” she said. “And life did go on, right?”

Fauci quickly, and politely, rejected the premise.

“Laura, this is different. HIV/AIDS is entirely different,” he said. “We don’t have a vaccine for HIV/AIDS, but we have spectacularly effective treatment. People who invariably would have died years ago right now are leading essentially normal lives.”

During the peak of the HIV/AIDS epidemic in the ’80s, Fauci is credited with working with activists to push for a change in how the federal government conducted clinical trials for drugs. As NPR reports, those efforts increased the number of people who could access experimental treatments, in turn saving lives that otherwise would have likely been lost to the disease.

Speaking to Ingraham, Fauci noted that comparisons between COVID-19 and SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) are also misleading, as research on a vaccine stopped when the virus disappeared.

“I think it’s a little bit misleading maybe to compare what we are going through now with HIV or SARS,” Fauci said. “They’re really different.”

When Ingraham asked if COVID-19 could similarly disappear, Fauci said that it was theoretically possible, but “the degree of efficiency of transmissibility of this is really unprecedented in anything that I’ve seen.”

“It’s an extraordinarily efficient virus in transmitting from one person to another,” he said. “Those kinds of viruses don’t just disappear.”

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Rhuaridh Marr is Metro Weekly's online editor. He can be reached at rmarr@metroweekly.com.

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