Dr. Anthony Fauci looks tired. His voice is raspy at times. He has become the face of resistance to the COVID-19 pandemic in the U.S. He is present at the daily White House briefings and various networks throughout the day, allaying people’s fears and answering questions.
He does yeoman service to this country. Do we appreciate the significance of that service?
I had the honor of rounding with Dr. Fauci many years ago at the NIH. He is smart, dedicated, laser-focused, and hardworking.
He has worked with six presidents (Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, Barack Obama, and Donald Trump). In the current hyper-partisan milieu, he is either criticized or used by both extremes of the political spectrum, trying to get him into trouble knowingly or unknowingly.
He is asked all sorts of “gotcha” questions that can be used against the administration. He is forced to retract his words and statements. He is subtly used as a pawn in these endless games of politicking. He is neither a lawyer nor a journalist. He is just a doctor, and we should leave it at that. Don’t stress him any more than he is subjected to now, and please let him do the job for all of us. Please don’t go for the “sound bite moments” at his expense. Let him work with the administration bringing relief to millions of individuals affected by this pandemic.
There is another group accusing him of dropping the ball early in the crisis. Yes, there are videos of him telling that COVID-19 is not a major threat to people in the U.S. in January 2020. But he made that assumption based on the available data (probably incomplete judging now) at that time. He is a medical scientist and not a politician. His mistake was probably venturing into the political realm to make that assumption, not realizing the ground realities of superpower politics. And again, why did we ask him such a hypothetical question that involves several layers of international politics? I don’t think we can hold him culpable for that judgment.
We cannot blame him for trying to shut down the country and kill the economy, either. This is what any prudent medical practitioner or epidemiologist will say if asked the prognosis when there are several unknowns. It’s just the best educational guess. Dr. Fauci has clearly stated that current circulating disease models are only as good as the data that goes in. And those data are mostly assumptions right now.
He works 20- hour days, finish by checking his 600 emails at midnight. He is 79; he needs more sleep than 4-5 hours per night.
He might have his own politics. I have my own. You have your own. That is not a disqualifying feature for his job. He might have written a praising email to the Secretary of State in the past. Who wouldn’t have done that given their position? These should not be taken as a stain on his character.
Most often, he is giving his opinions and educated guesses because we really know very little about this unraveling pandemic. If you don’t agree, don’t disparage him. We are a democracy; we should be able to live with differing opinions.
The pandemic is only at its infancy. We will need much more knowledge and directions to conquer this. With his experience, intelligence, and dedication, there is no better person than Dr. Fauci to guide us through this. He already has the toughest job in the U.S. Let us not make it more difficult. He is a national treasure. It is high time that both sides of the aisle recognize this fact and move forward.
P. Dileep Kumar is a hospitalist.
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