Fauci says he will retire from government post by the end of Biden’s term

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Anthony S. Fauci, the leading national infectious disease expert who has been the face of the response to the coronavirus pandemic for more than two years, plans after more than 50 years in government to retire by the end of President Biden’s term, he confirmed to the Washington Post on Monday.

“As we come to the end of the Biden administration, I think it would be time for me to leave this position,” Fauci said.

Fauci’s decision to retire by 2025 was first reported by Politico. The 81-year-old official later hinted that his plans weren’t fully ironed out, telling The New York Times that he would “almost certainly” to retire by 2025 and warn CNN don’t see monday news as the official announcement of his retirement.

“I want to do other things in my career, even though I’m quite old,” Fauci told CNN, adding he had the “energy and the passion” to continue working after federal service. .

Fauci, Biden’s chief medical adviser, first joined the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases as a clinical researcher in 1968 and became the agency’s director in 1984. In that role, he advised seven presidents through all sorts of public health crises, including HIV/AIDS, the 2001 anthrax attacks, Ebola and Zika – although in recent years he has become a political lightning rod for his advice on the coronavirus. President Donald Trump in 2020 publicly criticized Fauci and told supporters he would consider firing him, while Biden announced his decades in public office and made Fauci his chief medical adviser after winning the presidency. .

Biden leaned heavily on Fauci in his response to the pandemic, which continued to spread rampantly across the country despite the widespread availability of vaccines. Fauci has since said the coronavirus is here to stay but the United States needs to reach a lower threshold of infections to emerge from the pandemic phase. The BA.5 variant has become dominant in the United States and has proven particularly difficult to contain because antibodies from vaccines and previous coronavirus infections offer limited protection against the latest omicron subvariant.

The infectious disease expert also began warning about the monkeypox outbreak, urging Americans on Saturday “to take [it] seriously,” and increasingly called for efforts to depoliticize the field of public health.

Fauci was shaped in many ways by the HIV/AIDS epidemic in the early 1980s, which changed the direction of his career and directed his work as Director of NIAID. He faced heavy criticism from HIV activists, who criticized the government for, they said, moving too slowly on treatments and ignoring a health crisis that mainly affected gay men.

But Fauci eventually worked with activists to advance treatments and make them more widely available to patients with the disease, which in the early years killed nearly everyone who contracted the virus. Treatments for HIV/AIDS have since made it possible to live a long and normal life with the virus.

The coronavirus pandemic has presented a whole different kind of challenge.

Overnight, the outbreak propelled Fauci to national and global fame, particularly after he publicly contradicted Trump about potential treatments for covid-19 and the threat the virus posed. The president and some of his aides began to publicly criticize Fauci and even called for his firing near the end of Trump’s term.

After Trump sought to downplay and ignore the virus and effectively allowed it to spread unchecked before vaccines and treatments became widely available, Biden took a different approach, working to implement policies. to control the virus. But the Biden administration has faced several defeats in federal courts and the Supreme Court. A policy that would have required companies with more than 100 employees to implement a vaccine or testing requirement has been blocked by the Supreme Court and a federal court has struck down a federal mask mandate on public transportation.

Fauci’s support for covid mitigation measures such as early 2020 lockdowns and mask and vaccine mandates have made him something of a boogeyman for Republican lawmakers who have opposed nearly all efforts to control the virus. Several Republicans, including Sen. Rand Paul (Ky.), Rep. Jim Jordan (Ohio), and Sen. Roger Marshall (Kan.), have ferociously targeted Fauci, in some cases spreading misinformation about his work and even accusing him of baseless to be responsible for the pandemic. Meanwhile, public confidence in Fauci has declined, especially among conservatives, according to findings from the University of Pennsylvania’s Annenberg Public Policy Center.

Some notable Republicans have continued to support Fauci, with former Sen. Lamar Alexander – who retired last year after serving as chairman of the Senate health panel – calling him “one of the most most distinguished in our country.

“In his testimony before the Senate Health Committee, he told the truth as he saw it, even when the news was harsh and unpopular,” Alexander, of Tennessee, said in a statement Monday. “He has earned the respect of senators on both sides of the aisle.”

But current GOP lawmakers, including Paul and Jordan, have vowed to open investigations into the NIAID director if Republicans take control of one or both houses of Congress in November’s midterm. Fauci in March told the Post he was alarmed by the possibility of Republicans taking over Congress and launching investigations into his work.

“It’s the Benghazi hearings again,” Fauci said then, referring to GOP investigations into Hillary Clinton’s State Department leadership during the 2012 attacks on US compounds in Libya. This long-running investigation found no new evidence of wrongdoing by Clinton, but was a staple of conservative media for years.

“They will try to beat me in public, and there will be nothing there,” Fauci added. “But it will distract me from doing my job, as it is doing right now.”

Public health experts said Monday they were processing the news of Fauci’s expected departure, crediting his work for shaping the health care field and helping respond to multiple outbreaks.

“Fauci is part of a generation — data-driven, experimentally rigorous, ethically flawless, and kind,” said Ian Lipkin, an epidemiologist at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health.

“He is a true man of science,” Kristian Andersen, an immunologist at the Scripps Research Institute, added in an email, praising “his key leadership in bringing the HIV/AIDS pandemic under control or obtaining highly effective COVID-19 vaccines. in less than a year.” year.”

Gregg Gonsalves, a Yale University epidemiologist who fought with Fauci at the start of the HIV/AIDS epidemic – and helped spur calls for him to be replaced decades ago – said he had come to appreciate Fauci as a singular figure.

“I’ve spent my own life criticizing and praising him in equal measure,” Gonsalves said. “But when you look around at the long-serving public servants, no one comes close to what Tony has done for this country and public health.”

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