10:47 AM PT -- A famous epidemiologist -- who's on the mend after having coronavirus -- tells TMZ that whatever political or social downside there might be to speaking out and closing down wet markets operating in the states must bow down to the upside ... saving lives.
We spoke to Dr. Michael Saag Wednesday on 'TMZ Live' -- a guy who's renowned for his work in the studies of HIV and AIDS -- and he made it very clear that public health should trump any offense that any group of people -- ethnic or otherwise -- might take if politicians start making moves to regulate, if not fully close, the live animal butcher shops and slaughterhouses we've been highlighting this week ... where animals or hoarded, killed and sold to customers in one place, under incredibly unsanitary conditions.
Dr. Saag says he understands how this might be the norm for certain folks, but when we told him different politicians we've talked to about this seem hesitant to take action ... DS said he gets that too, 'cause they don't wanna come off as xenophobic and upset their constituency and look bad. It's a fine line to walk -- but Saag says the problem is clear.
In his eyes, respecting culture -- something we take pride in here in America -- MUST take a back seat when the public's well-being is at stake, as it is with these U.S.-based wet markets.
Dr. Saag also explains what's on the line here, as he knows first-hand what it's like having COVID-19. Watch ... he says it's nothing like he's ever battled before, and no one wants it if they can help it.
It's becoming more clear by the day that wet markets are NOT just a China problem -- it's an American problem too ... just take a look at these latest clips from Texas and California.
TMZ has gotten a hold of even more graphic videos of two different live animal shops in TX and CA -- where people pick out the animal, have it slaughtered on the spot and then sold to them right then and there -- and you see the mixed-in livestock runs the gamut.
There are pigs in pens, goats and sheep hoarded together ... and, of course, as we've seen in New York and elsewhere -- chicken and rabbits cooped up in cages -- all in the same area within earshot of each other, and all getting butchered.
Ya got pigs hanging from hooks out in the open, chicken beaks, feathers and guts all over the floor and in an exposed trash can -- this while customers (including kids) come in and browse the freezer for whatever cuts of meat they want. It's downright dirty and gross.
As we've been told by the experts, these one-stop-shop slaughterhouses/storefronts can be breeding grounds for disease -- including new viruses, like COVID-19, which supposedly got started at a wet market in China.
We already know of lawmakers in Cali and New York working to get these things shut down, but it's pretty apparent there needs to be federal legislation rolled out to address this. Can't call the kettle black when we're swimming in the freakin' pot.