Anthony Fauci, perhaps the most well-known public health figure in America, has contacted covid-19. Health officials said Wednesday afternoon that the 81-year-old Fauci tested positive for the coronavirus, reportedly for the first time. He’s said to be experiencing mild symptoms currently.
Fauci is the long-time director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID). During the pandemic, he’s been a prominent public health leader and is currently serving as the chief medical advisor to President Biden.
According to a statement by the National Institutes of Health, Fauci tested positive for the virus on a rapid antigen test sometime today. These tests are intended to measure a person’s peak period of infectiousness. He has reportedly not been in recent close contact with President Biden or other administration officials, and he will now isolate and work from home.
Fauci had been in the minority of Americans who had not yet contracted the coronavirus. The CDC has officially recorded more than 85 million cases in the U.S., which is a clear undercount. A recent CDC estimate found that nearly 60% of Americans, or over 150 million people, have antibodies to the virus as of February 2022, and other studies have calculated even higher numbers. The U.S. has been experiencing an increase in cases since late April, though the surge may now be leveling off without having matched the far larger peak of illness and death this past winter.
According to the NIH, Fauci was fully vaccinated and received two booster shots. While vaccination and further boosting does appear to remain effective at preventing severe illness and death from covid-19, it’s proven much less effective at preventing infection from the Omnicon variant and related strains, which have become the dominant form of the virus in the world since last winter. Some research has also indicated that even booster shots only provide temporary protection against infection, which has led to calls for an upgraded vaccine that can offer longer-lasting immunity to Omicron and future variants.
In accordance with guidelines issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and his doctor’s advice, Fauci is expected not to return to the NIH until he tests negative for the virus.