WASHINGTON — Dr. Anthony Fauci appeared at his final White House press conference Tuesday as he prepares to leave office next month after half a century on the front lines of the world’s most serious public health crises. .
“The thought that this may very likely be the last time I’m in that press conference room is kind of sad. Sad, and yet with the full understanding and appreciation that all things must pass. Things can’t go on forever,» Fauci said in an interview earlier that day with NBC News.
At the briefing, Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and chief medical adviser to President Joe Biden, said: “The final message I give you from this podium is that for your own safety, for your family’s safety Please get your updated Covid-19 vaccine as soon as you are eligible.”
Fauci, 81, has led the institute since 1984, a position filled by the AIDS outbreak and the Covid-19 pandemic that has killed more than a million Americans.
He became a household name for his work on then-President Donald Trump’s Covid task force, regularly appearing in the briefing room for on-camera updates on the virus where he often pushed back against Trump’s false claims about the disease.
His frank warnings about the virus, at odds with Trump’s more optimistic message at the time, made him something of a pop cultural sensation, with bobbleheaded Fauci dolls appearing and actors Brad Pitt and Kate McKinnon taking turns playing him in Skits from Saturday Night Live.
As the pandemic progressed, Fauci’s relationship with Trump soured, and their back-and-forth disagreements, ranging from the severity of the virus to how best to treat it, often spilled out into the open.
Before announcing his plans to leave government, Fauci said that Do not serve under another Trump administration.
Fauci, a bookish behind-the-scenes figure for much of his career, came under fire from the right for his willingness to contradict Trump and his recommendations that the lockdowns were necessary to slow the spread of the virus.
He began traveling with government security agents as death threats and verbal abuse increased. In his interview with NBC, Fauci alluded to how his life has changed. He declined to compare Trump and Biden, two of the seven presidents he has advised over the course of his career.
«I would prefer not to go into that,» he said. «The attacks and knockback I get just aren’t worth it.»
Still, he made it clear that he enjoyed his time advising Biden, who said he is «all in favor of sticking to the science, sticking to the facts and not blaming anything, just going ahead and doing it.»
Republicans gained control of the US House of Representatives in the midterm elections and plan to call Fauci to testify about his role in fighting the pandemic in the new year.
Fauci said he would be willing to show up and face what is sure to be hostile questioning.
“I have great respect for the concept of oversight, legitimate oversight, and I have no problem testifying before Congress,” he said. «I can explain and defend everything I’ve done and I have absolutely nothing to hide.»
At the news conference, he was asked to reflect on the course of the virus, saying he did not imagine the US would see «a three-year saga of suffering and death as a million Americans lose their lives.»
«The most disturbing…was the continuation of multiple variants that evolved over time,» Fauci said.
Fauci said he eventually expects the virus to reach low levels in the US, but the speed at which the country reaches that point depends on how many people continue to get vaccinated, as well as how many people get an updated booster shot.
“We can get there with less suffering if we use the interventions that we have,” Fauci said. «If you want to let nature take its course, we’ll eventually get it done, but we’ll lose a lot more people than we need to.»
fauci does not plan to retire. She told NBC News that he is considering various paths including working at the academy, a foundation or possibly on his own. She said it is «very likely» that she will write a book. But unlike so many government officials-turned-authors in the post-Trump era, he added that it would not be a revelation.
“What I would like to do is encourage and maybe inspire young people to get involved in science, medicine and public health,” Fauci said. «There is a danger of an anti-science movement, and I hope I can serve as a bit of encouragement and inspiration to young people.»