Anthony Fauci announced on Monday he will have retired by the time Joe Biden’s first term in the White House ends in January 2025, but said his hope of eliminating Covid will likely not have been achieved by then.
“If somebody says, ‘You’ll leave when we don’t have Covid any more,’ then I will be 105,” the government’s chief medical adviser, 81, said in a wide-ranging interview with Politico.
“I think we’re going to be living with this,” he warned.
Fauci, the long-serving head of the national institute of allergy and infectious diseases, confirmed the news in a later interview Monday with CNN.
He said: “I have said that for a long time. It is extremely unlikely, in fact, for sure … I am not going to be here beyond January 2025.”
He has teased retirement before, telling the Independent last month: “I don’t think it’s going to be a very long time from now.”
But the Politico interview is the first time that he has put a timescale on it, noting that Biden will be the seventh and final president he has served in almost 40 years as the institute’s director, and more than five decades as an employee.
Previously, Fauci, a hero to many but a frequent target of criticism from the right during the height of the pandemic for his advocacy for lockdowns, masks and mandates, harbored hope, if not an expectation, that a virus responsible for the deaths of more than a million Americans could have been conquered by vaccinations and herd immunity.
Fast-mutating Covid variants and sub-variants, such as BA.5, however, have fuelled a resurgence in infections and hospitalizations, and are showing resistance to existing vaccines. That, Fauci told Politico, means the virus is likely to become endemic.
“What we have right now, I think we’re almost at a steady state,” he said.
“I think, although I don’t know for sure, [that] over the next cycle or so, we’ll be getting towards a once-a-year boost, like flu.”
Fauci said one of his biggest fears was public complacency, and weariness, over the coronavirus. Vaccination take-up rates are falling, along with the wearing of masks, amid a relaxation of official restrictions, and the Biden administration has been consumed with other crises such as inflation, the Ukraine war, gun violence and abortion rights.
Meanwhile, the daily case average has risen to 130,000, and experts predict a larger wave to come in the fall.
An almost permanent fixture on the nation’s television screens for two years, he has been seen far less in recent months, seemingly relegated to occasional appearances at White House press briefings and infrequent television interviews.
“It’s becoming more and more difficult to get people to listen, because even the people who are compliant want this behind them,” Fauci said.
“What I try to convince them [of], with my communication method, is we’re not asking you to dramatically alter your lifestyle. We’re not asking you to really interfere with what you do with your life. We’re just asking you to consider some simple, doable mitigation methods.”
Health officials are mulling a recommendation for all adults to be eligible for a second booster shot, but politicians in Washington continue to argue over continued funding for vaccines, testing and therapeutics.
Fauci said he regrets the politicization of the pandemic, which have included attacks on him during and following the Trump administration, but he is unmoved by a threat from Republicans to “investigate” him if they assume control of the House in November.
“[Retirement] has nothing to do with pressures, nothing to do with all of the other nonsense that you hear about, all the barbs, the slings and the arrows. That has no influence on me,” he told CNN.
Asked about his legacy, Fauci did not cite Covid, but instead his team’s decades of work on HIV, the human immunodeficiency virus that causes Aids and gained a foothold during the Reagan administration in the 1980s. The disease is manageable with modern medicines, but there is still no vaccine.
“I don’t think there is anything else that I, Tony Fauci, can do except leave behind an institution where I have picked the best people in the country, if not the world, who will continue my vision,” he said.
July 19, 2022 at 12:16AM Richard Luscombe