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He has been called the “calming presence” during the COVID-19 press conferences in the United States, yet Dr. Anthony Fauci has not refrained from presenting the hard facts.
Fauci has had an important role in fighting multiple epidemics, going back to the AIDS crisis of the 1980s, but press conferences during the current coronavirus pandemic have made him a household name.
Fauci’s messaging and tone has contrasted at times with that of US President Donald Trump, which has led to speculation that Fauci could be removed from his post. In fact, after having not attended a couple of the president’s most recent press conferences, his absence has become a story in and of itself.
Who is Dr. Fauci?
Dr. Anthony Fauci, an immunologist, has been the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) for over three decades. He has gained prominence as a member of President Trump’s White House Coronavirus Task Force.
Fauci was formerly with the National Institutes of Health (NIH).
Well before the COVID-19 pandemic, Dr. Fauci had built his professional reputation on his work in the field against viral epidemics.
In 2015, Fauci donned a protective suit to help treat a US health worker who had been infected with the Ebola virus while working in Sierra Leone. In 2014 and 2015, multiple cases of Ebola were reported in the United States, amid a more widespread outbreak globally.
At the time, Fauci explained that “unique insights” about a virus were attained “when you actually physically interact with patients.” He also wanted his staff to know he would do any work that he asked of them.
Many years earlier, Fauci received national praise on television for his work combating AIDS. The praise came from then-Vice President George H.W. Bush in a 1988 presidential debate with Democratic rival Michael Dukakis.
Footage of the moment was recently posted on Twitter by CSPAN Communications Director, Howard Mortman.
In the video, Bush discusses potential heroes for young people.
“I think of Dr. Fauci…He’s a very fine research- Top doctor at National Institutes of Health working hard doing something about research on this disease of AIDS,” Bush said.
Presenting the facts on COVID-19
While the Trump administration has attempted to formulate an effective response to the COVID-19 outbreak, Fauci has emerged as a trusted voice. The Guardian has referred to him as a “calming presence,” a presence that has been noticeably absent at times.
After missing consecutive nightly press conferences, the hashtag #WhereIsDrFauci began trending.
Some have speculated Fauci’s willingness to contradict the official stance of the Trump administration may lead to a diminished role on the task force.
In February, after Vice President Mike Pence was put in charge of the Coronavirus Task Force, The New York Times reported that Fauci had been instructed by the White House not to speak without its clearance.
During a press conference on February 27, Trump publicly contradicted Fauci’s private warnings to the task force. The doctor explained that COVID-19 was a “serious virus” that had adapted to be extremely dangerous to humans. By contrast, Trump told viewers that nobody knew how serious the virus was.
Over the last week, Fauci’s messaging has once again not aligned with the Trump administration’s. On Friday, March 20, the doctor warned Americans that they need to be prepared to continue social distancing for “at least several weeks” while the disease continues to spread.
But in his tweets and press conferences, Trump has indicated that he wants Americans to go back to work.
Late on Sunday night, Trump tweeted, in all caps, that “the cure” should not be worse than “the problem itself” and that after “the 15 day period, we will make a decision as to which way we want to go!”
This comes as citizens of the United Kingdom have been put on lockdown, following similar restrictions in countries including Italy and Spain.
The personal life of Dr. Fauci
In January 2015, the doctor gave an interview to CSPAN to discuss his career combating AIDS, SARS and Ebola.
In the interview, Fauci explained how he met his future wife, Dr. Christine Grady, who had been hired as a nurse at the NIH during the AIDS crisis. Grady, who is currently a bioethicist with the NIH, helped translate for a Portuguese patient of Fauci’s. A year later, they were married. They now have three adult daughters.
Fauci also acknowledged his views on religion and faith after having attended Catholic Jesuit schools.
“I am not a regular church-attender,” he explained, stating he was now a humanist who has “faith in the goodness of mankind.”
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