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UFC's Dana White criticizes people who "run and hide" from coronavirus — while experts say, "Please stay home"

Health expert on coronavirus & social distancing
Johns Hopkins health security director on coronavirus in the U.S. and social distancing 02:24

While the sports world remains shut down by the coronavirus pandemic, UFC president Dana White criticized Americans who "run and hide" from COVID-19. The controversial remarks come as U.S. and world health officials urge people to stay at home and practice social distancing to help slow the spread of the disease and save lives.

White told Yahoo Sports columnist Kevin Iole this week that he's been following recommendations from the government and self-quarantining with his family since March 15. However, the UFC boss believes it's been over the top, and questioned how long it's going to last.

"How long are we really going to stay in our houses and hide?" he said. "If the coronavirus is what's going to get me, then so be it. I mean, it is what it is. Heart disease, car accidents, cancer — the list goes on and on of all these things that kill people every year. One thing is guaranteed: We're all gonna die of something. ... You can't be somebody who's gonna hide in your house." 

He continued to rant against the guidelines, saying: "Since when do Americans run and hide in their friggin' houses instead of taking this thing head-on and finding solutions? ... You find solutions in how we continue to live our lives, protect the people who need to be protected. I don't think I'm a high risk guy for this thing. Maybe I'm wrong. And if I'm wrong, then the corona is going to get me, all right? It is what it is. There's nothing you can do."

Iole pushed back, at one point telling White, "You are not a coronavirus expert, nor am I, I just would say listen to the doctors."

But White persisted, drawing a misguided comparison to cancer — which, of course, is not contagious the way coronavirus is. "Whether you're a coronavirus expert or not, it's like hiding from cancer," White said. "You can't hide from this thing."

"But I can't get cancer from shaking your hand," Iole replied.

Whether or not White cares about getting sick himself, the stay-at-home guidelines are needed to help protect others in the community — especially the elderly and people with underlying health conditions, and the health care workers on the front lines.

Doctors and nurses across America have joined in a viral campaign encouraging people to stay at home — sharing messages that say, "We stay here for you. Please stay home for us."

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation's top infectious disease expert, explained Sunday on "Face the Nation" that social distancing is crucial to prevent the U.S. from "becoming an Italy" — a country which has surpassed China for the most coronavirus-related deaths. Hospitals there have been overwhelmed by a flood of thousands of desperately ill patients, leaving many people without access to ventilators and other medical care that might have been able to save them.

"We're going to get hit. There's no doubt about it. We see it in New York. New York is terribly suffering," Fauci said. "But the kinds of mitigation issues that are going on right now, the things that we're seeing in this country, this physical separation, at the same time as we're preventing an influx of cases coming in, I think that's going to go a long way to preventing us from becoming an Italy."

In the interview with Yahoo Sports, White said one of UFC's upcoming marquee fights, UFC 249, will go on as scheduled next month, but stopped short of saying it would happen in the United States. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended against gatherings of more than 10 people earlier this month, prompting the postponement or cancelation of sporting events, shows and conventions nationwide.

White said the event would go on without fans, and didn't say whether participating fighters would get tested for coronavirus. He also said that while UFC fights have been postponed, none of his workers have been laid off.

President Trump said a Fox News town hall on Tuesday that he "would love to have the country opened up and just raring to go by Easter," but health officials have not set a date when it would be safe to relax the precautions. 

A few hours later, at a briefing by the White House Coronavirus Task Force, Mr. Trump said the decision to reopen will be "based on hard facts and data as to the opening. I'm also hopeful to have Americans working again by that Easter, that beautiful Easter day. But rest assured every decision we make is grounded solely in the health safety and well-being of our citizens."

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