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Dr. Fauci leaving decadeslong government post as top infectious disease expert

During the Covid-19 pandemic, the physician and scientist withstood partisan criticism from the right wing but remained a source of public health wisdom for the public at large.

WASHINGTON (CN) — After 38 years as America's top infectious disease expert and the chief medical adviser to the president, Dr. Anthony Fauci announced Monday that he will leave his post this December.

Fauci, 81, announced the move in a statement Monday, noting that he has worked as the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases under the last seven presidential administrations, beginning with former president Ronald Reagan’s in 1984.

“It has been the honor of a lifetime to have led the NIAID, an extraordinary institution, for so many years and through so many scientific and public health challenges,” Fauci said.

While Fauci saw his public profile explode with the emergence of the novel coronavirus during the Trump administration, he noted Monday that decades of government service also put him head to head against infectious disease threats that emerged related to HIV/AIDS, the West Nile virus, the anthrax attacks, bird flus, Ebola and Zika.

For the last three years of the Covid-19 pandemic, Fauci's science-driven insight on social distancing, masking, vaccinations and other public health advice has put him at odds with certain Republicans in office. 

His words often came at odds with former President Donald Trump’s unsupported medical advice, such as advising Americans to take anti-malarial drugs or inject disinfectants, as well as Trump’s dismissive attitude toward what he said were economy-harming practices, like mandatory business shutdowns and social distancing.

The Republican pushback to Fauci has continued even after Trump's 2020 election defeat, with members of Congress vowing to investigate the Biden administration’s handling of the Covid-19 pandemic if they win back control of either House or Senate in the November midterms.

Kentucky’s Republican Senator Rand Paul has insinuated that Fauci’s stepping down is an attempt to escape government prosecution. Paul has said Fauci helped cover up that Covid-19 was a bioweapon designed by China in a laboratory — a theory that U.S. intelligence has dismissed.

“Fauci’s resignation will not prevent a full-throated investigation into the origins of the pandemic,” Paul tweeted. “He will be asked to testify under oath regarding any discussions he participated in concerning the lab leak.”

Representative James Comer of Kentucky, a leader for Republicans in the House Oversight Committee, echoed this sentiment.

“Retirement can’t shield Dr. Fauci from congressional oversight,” Comer tweeted.

Lamenting the polarization of science under the Trump administration, Fauci strived to serve as a trustworthy government voice who kept Americans updated on the development and testing of Covid-19 vaccines as inoculations became available.

While he didn’t state specifics, Fauci emphasized Monday he plans “to pursue the next chapter” of his career after 2022 and continue working in his field.

“I am not retiring,” he said. 

“I want to use what I have learned as NIAID director to continue to advance science and public health and to inspire and mentor the next generation of scientific leaders as they help prepare the world to face future infectious disease threats,” Fauci continued.

President Joe Biden lauded Fauci’s commitment to government service alongside the announcement Monday, saying that the country is “stronger, more resilient, and healthier because of him.”

The president emphasized that Fauci was one of the first people he tapped as president-elect, asking him to serve as his chief medical adviser and continue to advise the country’s navigation of the Covid-19 pandemic.  

“His commitment to the work is unwavering, and he does it with an unparalleled spirit, energy, and scientific integrity,” Biden said in a statement. 

“Because of Dr. Fauci’s many contributions to public health, lives here in the United States and around the world have been saved,” Biden continued. “As he leaves his position in the U.S. Government, I know the American people and the entire world will continue to benefit from Dr. Fauci’s expertise in whatever he does next. Whether you’ve met him personally or not, he has touched all Americans’ lives with his work.”

Fauci was previously given Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2008 under former President George W. Bush for his work on an AIDS relief program.  

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Categories / Government, Health, Science

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