Anthony Fauci Explains Why the US Still Hasn’t Beaten Covid

Dr. Anthony Fauci’s new normal is less normal than anyone’s during this year of the coronavirus. As the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases—and perhaps the most widely trusted voice on the White House Coronavirus Task Force—he has been revered and reviled, sometimes by his own boss, President Donald Trump, the sixth president he has served under. Just in the past seven days, he threw out the first pitch of the baseball season and was featured on a Topps baseball card. A vaccine that his lab helped develop went into a Phase III trial, the last stage of human clinical testing. And Trump attacked him again, retweeting a charge that the meticulously honest Fauci serially “misled the American public.”sanitation workers cleaning stairs

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Just another week for the scientist who has been fighting outbreaks since leading the government response on HIV/AIDS in the 1980s, and who now faces his biggest challenge in fighting both the worst pandemic of our lifetime and dealing with a president who doesn’t seem to have a coherent plan for fighting the virus. On Tuesday evening, Fauci found time to speak to WIRED about why the US has done so poorly in combating Covid-19, whether schools should open, and why no amount of abuse from Trump will make him leave his post. The interview has been edited for clarity and length.Steven Levy: First, congratulations for appearing on the best-selling baseball card in history.Anthony Fauci: Talk about living in a crazy world. If you had asked me 40 years ago, when I was a kid, if I would ever be in a situation where I would be on baseball cards, I would look at you like you're crazy.

I'll bet there are a lot of things happening this year that would have drawn the same reaction from you 40 years ago.

You're absolutely right.

Major League Baseball prepared for months to start playing and hit a crisis five days in. What lessons can we take from that?I think probably the biggest lesson is that even though we are five and a half to six months into this outbreak in the United States, we continue to learn. It's a moving target. I think in good faith, the baseball industry—namely the management, the players, and everyone involved—tried their best to see if they could open and continue an abbreviated season with protocols that would safeguard the welfare of the players and the personnel involved. And I think they're doing that. But obviously, to see 12 people on one team getting infected is more than a bit disconcerting. [Update: The number is now 18.] Hopefully they’ll be able to maintain the season without anymore unfortunate situations. But you never know. You’ll just have to wait and see what happens.

If baseball can't go on, what about schools?

It’s a much more complicated situation with the schools, and I can't give you a yes or no answer. As a broad principle, we should try as best as we possibly can to get the kids to return to school, because of the negative unintended consequences of keeping the kids out of school, like the psychological health of the children, the nutrition of kids who get breakfast or lunch at school, to working parents who may not be able to adjust their schedules. So the default position is to try.

However, while you do that, the one thing that you have to underscore—and that's a big however—is that paramount among this has to be the safety and welfare of the children, of their teachers, and secondarily, of the families of the children. So there has to be some degree of flexibility.