If Dr. Anthony Fauci says it, you'd be smart to listen. As the coronavirus has upended daily life across the globe, Fauci has become the trusted
If Dr. Anthony Fauci says it, you’d be smart to listen.
As the coronavirus has upended daily life across the globe, Fauci has become the trusted voice in separating fact and fiction.
The fear and confusion of outbreaks aren’t new to Fauci, who in more than 30 years has handled HIV, SARS, MERS, Ebola and even the nation’s 2001 experience with bioterrorism – the anthrax attacks.
Fauci’s political bosses – from Ronald Reagan to Donald Trump – have let him do the explaining because he’s frank and understandable, translating complex medical information into everyday language while neither exaggerating nor downplaying.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases at the National Institutes of Health, has emerged as the most trusted public official during the coronavirus outbreak. He is seen right next to President Trump at the White House on Saturday
Fauci is seen above in a lab in 1984. He has headed the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases at NIH for more than three decades
Fauci is seen far right in December 2002, when the nation was facing a spike in the number of smallpox infection. From left: Then-President George W. Bush; Homeland Security Director-designee Tom Ridge, and Dr. Julie Gerberding of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
For his contributions, Fauci was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by Bush in June 2008
If you quizzed former presidents about who influenced their views on infectious diseases, ‘Tony’s name would be first on the list, and you wouldn’t have to remind them,’ said former health secretary Mike Leavitt, who worked with Fauci on bird flu preparedness.
Fauci was born in Brooklyn in 1940, the son of pharmacy owners whose parents migrated to the US from Italy.
President George W. Bush, who in 2008 awarded Fauci the Presidential Medal of Freedom, noted that even as a boy he showed an independent streak: In a neighborhood full of Brooklyn Dodgers fans, Fauci rooted for the Yankees.
And despite being short in stature, Fauci captained the basketball team at the prestigious Regis High School, which he attended on a scholarship.
He went on to College of the Holy Cross in Massachusetts, before completing an MD at Cornell University.
‘My interest in medicine stems from my keen interest in people, in asking questions and solving problems,’ Fauci told the NIH Historical Office in a 1989 interview.
At 79, the government’s top infectious disease expert is by age in the demographic group at high risk for COVID-19.
But he’s working round the clock and getting only a few hours of sleep.
Yet his vigor belies his age, and he credits it to exercise, including running.
‘Getting outside in the day and hearing the birds and smelling the grass is kind of a very pleasing thing for me,’ he stated in 2016.
Fauci runs long distances , and completed the 1984 Army Corps Marathon in 3 hours 37 minutes.
While the top doctor usually runs daily, ‘rail, hail, or shine’ – the demands of his current role in the White House Coronavirus Task Force means he is now taking long walks on weekends.
Fauci uses a metaphor from ice hockey, one of the fastest-moving sports, to describe his strategy on the outbreak.
‘You skate not to where the puck is, but to where the puck is going to be,’ he told a House committee.
So he’s simultaneously advocating containment to try to keep the virus from spreading, mitigation to check its damage once it gets loose in a community, immediate efforts to increase testing, and short-term and long-term science to develop treatments and vaccines.
Fauci is seen left with Sir Elton John in Washington, DC, in July 2012
He’s hoping a dynamic response will put the nation where the puck ends up going.
‘It’s unpredictable,’ he said.
‘Testing now is not going to tell you how many cases you’re going to have. What will tell you … will be how you respond to it with containment and mitigation.’
Serving a president who until recently dismissed coronavirus by comparing it to seasonal flu, Fauci has been even-handed in public.
He’s won the respect of Democratic and Republican lawmakers, along with Trump administration officials.
Almost in matter-of-fact fashion Fauci acknowledged to Congress in recent days that the government system wasn’t designed for mass testing of potential infections.
‘It is a failing, let’s admit it,’ he told lawmakers.
But he also supported President Donald Trump’s restrictions on travel from Europe. It’s part of the containment strategy, he explained.
‘It was pretty compelling that we needed to turn off the source from that region,’ he said.
The threat of a pandemic has been on Fauci’s mind for years. Many scientists thought it would come from the flu, but it turned out to be coronavirus.
Fauci was unflappable answering questions for hours from the House Oversight and Reform committee last week – except if there was any hint of questioning his scientific integrity.
‘I served served six presidents and I have never done anything other than tell the exact scientific evidence and made policy recommendations based on the science and the evidence,’ he said.
Democrats and Republicans have welcomed his approach.
‘The scientists I’ve spoken with in committee see you as the lead man, and I believe most of America does,’ Rep. Clay Higgins, a Republican from Louisiana, told Fauci.
Democratic Rep. Stephen Lynch of Massachusetts praised Fauci for accurately stating that a vaccine would not be available in a matter of months, contrary to what Trump has suggested at times.
‘You have a certain level of credibility and honesty that I think … should be persuasive to the American people,’ Lynch told him.
Fauci’s candor hasn’t stopped Trump from praising him.
‘Tony has been doing a tremendous job working long, long hours,’ the president said Friday at a Rose Garden event.
Fauci (seen far right with Mother Teresa in this undated file photo) has been the point man in the nation’s response to HIV, SARS, MERS, and Ebola
Fauci became head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases in 1984, when the nation was in the throes of the AIDS crisis.
He’s recalled the huge frustration of caring for dying patients in the NIH’s hospital with nothing to offer.
After hours, he’d chat with then-Surgeon General C. Everett Koop about what scientists were learning about AIDS, influencing Koop’s famous 1986 report educating Americans about the disease.
However, the midst of professional stress, the workaholic Fauci found solace in his personal life.
In 1985, at the age of 44, he tied the knot to nurse Christine Grady. The pair went on to have three daughters: Jennifer, Megan and Alison.
Fauci is pictured with his wife Christine Grady and daughters Jennifer, Megan and Alison in the 1990s
Fauci has been married to nurse Christine Grady since 1985
In 1990, when AIDS activists swarmed the NIH to protest what they saw as government indifference, Fauci brought them to the table.
Fast forward, and he helped to shape Trump’s initiative to end HIV in the U.S.
Although he’s spent his career in government, Fauci doesn’t seem to have lost the human touch — and that may be part of the key to his success as a communicator.
During the 2014 Ebola outbreak, many Americans panicked when a US nurse got infected by a patient she was caring for, a traveler from West Africa.
Ebola can cause deadly bleeding.
Fauci confronted those fears by setting a personal example.
When the NIH hospital released that nurse, not only did he say she wasn’t contagious, he gave her a hug before TV cameras to prove he was not worried.
Fauci dismisses Trump’s claim malaria drugs are a ‘gift from god’ for coronavirus
Fauci said on Saturday that President Trump was ‘talking about hope’ when he bragged that malaria drugs could be a ‘gift from god’ to cure the coronavirus and not whether the medication ‘actually works.’
‘The president is talking about hope for people and it’s not an unreasonable thing to hope for people,’ Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and a member of the White House Coronavirus Task Force, said at the daily press briefing.
But, he added, his job as a scientist – Fauci is an immunologist and AIDS expert – is to prove that a treatment and cure are safe and actually work.
‘There are those who lean to the point of giving hope and say give that person the option of having access to that drug and then you have the other group, which is my job as a scientist, to say my job is to ultimately prove without a doubt that a drug is not only safe, but that it actually works,’ he said.
Dr. Tony Fauci said President Donald Trump was ‘talking about hope’ when he bragged that malaria drugs could be a ‘gift from god’ to cure coronavirus
President Trump defended his embrace of malaria drugs without studies to back him up, saying ‘what do we have to lose’
Trump has continually pushed drugs used for malaria as a treatment option for coronavirus and his embrace of them has caused twinges in the medical community.
‘This would be a gift from heaven, this would be a gift from god if it works. We are going to pray to god that it does work,’ the president said Saturday.
Fauci acknowledged the two points of view – hope versus science – could come into conflict and noted he experienced just that during the AIDS epidemic in the 1980s.
For several days Trump has pushed drugs that have been used to cure malaria as a treatment option for the coronavirus, leading to questions as to whether he is raising unsubstantiated hope for people infected with the disease since there have been no studies proving it cures the virus.
The president exploded in anger on Friday when he was asked just that as he touted orders of the drug cloroquine – despite Fauci saying at the same press briefing that there was no evidence it worked and that even its safety was unknown.
Trump, on Saturday, argued ‘what do we have to lose’ when it comes to using the drugs.
‘Look, I feel as the impression goes, what do we have to lose, because, you know, I feel very good about it,’ he said.
The president acknowledged Fauci and other doctors wanted data on the subject.
An angry Donald Trump went after NBC News’ Peter Alexander simply for asking what his message was to ‘scared’ Americans
NBC News’ Peter Alexander had asked President Trump if he was putting too positive of a spin on the coronavirus crisis and if he had a message for scared Americans
The president tagged the FDA and FDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn (above) in his tweet
‘Tony would feel like he likes samples done and I understand that too. Many doctors agree with that,’ he said, adding ‘we don’t have much time. We have a lot of very sick people in hospitals all over the place.’
The president has gotten defensive when asked about his embrace of the drugs as a coronavirus cure.
‘I’m a smart guy,’ he said on Friday. ‘I feel good about it.’
And he erupted at NBC’s Peter Alexander who asked the president about the issue, saying: ‘What do you say to Americans who are watching you right now who are scared?’
Trump, who listened to the question with his eyes down, shaking his head, looked up and erupted: ‘I would say that you’re a terrible reporter, that’s what I’d say.
‘I think it’s a very nasty question. And I think it’s a very bad signal that you’re putting out to the American people. The American people are looking for answers and they’re looking for hope. And you’re doing sensationalism and the same with NBC, and Concast, I don’t call it Comcast [NBC News’ ultimate parent company] for whom you work. You need to get back to good reporting.
‘Let’s see if it works.’
Before entering the briefing room on Saturday, the president urged the Food and Drug Administration in a tweet to speed approval for a malarial drug and an antibiotic to treat coronavirus patients, despite warnings from experts that further study is needed.
‘HYDROXYCHLOROQUINE & AZITHROMYCIN, taken together, have a real chance to be one of the biggest game changers in the history of medicine,’ Trump wrote in a tweet on Saturday morning.
‘The FDA has moved mountains – Thank You! Hopefully they will BOTH…be put in use IMMEDIATELY. PEOPLE ARE DYING, MOVE FAST, and GOD BLESS EVERYONE!’ he continued.
Trump noted that ‘H works better with A,’ referring to the drug combination, and cited a small French study published in the International Journal of Antimicrobial Agents.
The president tagged the FDA and FDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn in his tweet, apparently urging them to action. An FDA spokesman did not immediately respond to a request for comment from DailyMail.com.
The French study, carried out on 20 patients earlier this month, is highly preliminary and was non-randomized.
However, it did find that six patients who received a combination of hydroxychloroquine and azithromycin had their viral load reduced faster than those on either hydroxychloroquine alone or neither of the drugs.
Hydroxychloroquine is a high-power drug used to treat malaria, which is a parasitic infection, as well as some non-infectious inflammatory diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis.
Azithromycin is a fairly common antibiotic that is used to treat a number of bacterial infections, such a strep throat.
Neither drug has been previously indicated to treat a viral infection such as coronavirus, although there were anecdotal reports of hydroxychloroquine being used successfully to treat SARS, a close relative of coronavirus.
This chart shows the average viral load in the patients in the preliminary French study that examined hydroxychloroquine and azithromycin in treating coronavirus
Though both drugs are common, with side effects that are well understood, the combination of the two drugs is novel and its unclear what interactions they may have.
For several days, Trump has been touting hydroxychloroquine, saying on Thursday that it is ‘very powerful’ and ‘could be a tremendous breakthrough. Tremendous breakthrough.’
At a press conference on Friday, however, the government’s top infectious disease expert, Fauci, bluntly rebutted Trump’s more optimistic statements about the drug.
Trump clung to his feeling that the malaria drug could be the answer-in-waiting to an outbreak spreading around the nation, shutting down major parts of the economy, and posing the biggest challenge he has faced as president.
Calmly and quietly, Fauci insisted that the science is not yet there to validate Trump’s hope. Neither man directly challenged the other.
The extraordinary scene played out on national television Friday during the White House briefing on the outbreak. Anxious for answers, Americans heard conflicting views.
Reporters asked both men – first Fauci, then Trump – if hydroxychloroquine could be used to prevent COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus. A day earlier, when Fauci wasn’t with him at that briefing, Trump had called attention to the drug.
On Friday, Fauci took the reporter’s question and got right to the point.
‘No,’ he said when asked if hydroxychloroquine had been proven effective to treat coronavirus. ‘The answer … is no.’