Anthony Fauci is calling it a career. And the 81-year-old infectious disease expert — one of the most visible health officials in the federal government’s response to the coronavirus outbreak — deserves America’s heartfelt thanks. Without Fauci’s steady leadership, the COVID-19 pandemic would have created more havoc on our country than we could possibly imagine.
After 38 years leading the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, Fauci will retire by year’s end, he announced Monday. Fauci’s retirement is well earned. For nearly four decades, he worked to keep Americans safe from contagious diseases such as Ebola, Zika and other life-threatening conditions. He took the job in 1984 in part, he recalled later, because he was frustrated by the federal government’s inadequate response to the HIV/AIDS epidemic, and over time earned deep respect from activists within the gay community who had initially doubted his sincerity.
Despite that already stormy history, most of us knew little about Fauci’s work before 2020. His tenure as the face of the government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic — the most serious public health emergency in a century — was marked by controversy, a few missteps, and frequent battles with former President Donald Trump. But he deserves profound praise for the way he presided over America’s response to the pandemic, whose grip around the nation’s neck appears to at last be loosening.