Dr. Anthony Fauci, the head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases who President Joe Biden tapped as the pandemic tsar, has come down with COVID.
The National Institutes of Health announced on Wednesday that Fauci, 81, tested positive for the virus on a rapid antigen test but has not had any recent contact with the president or any other senior officials.
Fauci is fully vaccinated against the virus, and has been boosted twice.
He currently has mild symptoms, and will continue to isolate from other government officials in the coming days. Fauci will only return to the NIH when he tests negative, it announced, and will continue to work from home.
He had been slated to testify at a Senate health panel on Thursday about the state of the federal government’s COVID response.
Fauci has previously avoided contracting COVID-19 despite his more than two years leading the charge against the virus.
The top United States health official was last seen in public on June 3, when he served as the keynote speaker at City College of New York’s graduation ceremony.
His diagnosis marks the latest in a string of high-profile cases among lawmakers and government officials – with Secretary of Health and Human Services Xavier Becerra announcing earlier this week that he tested positive for the second time in less than a month.
Biden is now one of a few remaining top officials to avoid the virus.
Dr Anthony Fauci announced on Wednesday he has COVID. He is pictured here at a Senate Appropriations Subcommittee meeting last month
Fauci was last seen in public on June 3, when he served as the keynote speaker for City College of New York’s graduation ceremony
Fauci was one of the first people to get the COVID vaccine in December 2021
Fauci was one of the first people in the United States to receive a COVID vaccine, saying it ‘is a symbol to the rest of the country.’
He received his first dose of the Moderna vaccine in December 2021 at the National Institutes of Health Clinical Center in Bethesda, Maryland, along with other top government officials.
‘I feel extreme confidence in the safety and the efficacy of this vaccine so that we could have a veil of protection over this country that would end this pandemic,’ he said at the time.
He has led the charge against the virus since it first arrived in the United States in February 2020, and has served under both former President Donald Trump and President Joe Biden.
During his time in office, he has advocated for the vaccines and booster doses, but has flip-flopped several times on the best response to the pandemic.
Early on in the pandemic, he urged Americans not to wear facemasks, but then changed his guidance – and even insisted Americans double mask to help prevent the spread.
Then in April, he warned that the pandemic is far from over, though he said that the COVID threat in the US was not as ‘acute and accelerated’ as it was earlier in the pandemic and the nation had reached a new ‘decelerated and controlled’ phase of the pandemic
‘That does not mean we are out of the woods,’ he explained on CBS News, adding that the number of COVID positive cases is starting to ‘creep up’ again.
But the remarks came just one day after he told PBS NewsHour: ‘We are certainly right now in this country out of the pandemic phase.’
‘Namely, we don’t have 900,000 new infections a day and tens and tens and tens of thousands of hospitalizations and thousands of deaths. We are at a low level right now.’
He noted at the time that improved treatments and vaccines have put the U.S. in a much better position than other countries, such as China and Hong Kong, that continue to deal with serious virus situations.
Fauci also pointed pointed to Paxlovid, an antiviral medication developed by Pfizer that is being used to treat COVID, claiming he believes it will make a huge difference in the battle against the virus once it becomes readily accessible.
The pill designed to keep high-risk COVID patients out of the hospital, reducing their risk of serious illness by as much as 90 percent.
Fauci, said in April that the ‘pandemic phase’ was over at home but ‘is still ongoing globally’
Fauci also said at the time that Americans must use their own best instincts when it comes to dealing with the pandemic.
He was asked about an op-ed in the Washington Post by former public health official Dr. Lena Wen who said that we will likely have to accept at some point that COVID infections will keep occurring in an appearance on ABC’s This Week.
Host Jonathan Karl asked him at the time if America has reached the point where we ‘accept there is going to be a risk’ and get back to a new normal.
‘There will be – and we’ve said this many times even in our own discussions between you and I, that there will be a level of infection,’ Fauci said.
‘This is not going to be eradicated and it’s not going to be eliminated. And what’s going to happen is that we’re going to see that each individual is going to have to make their calculation of the amount of risk that they want to take in going to indoor dinners and in going to functions.’
Fauci insisted that people still should consider their age, status and if they live with anyone potentially vulnerable to the virus when they attend events, but admitted that overall Wen was correct.
‘We’re going to have to live with some degree of virus in the community. The best way to mitigate that, Jon, is to get vaccinated. If you’re not, to get boosted if you’re eligible to be boosted.’
He also previously admitted that Americans should weigh their own risks and make decisions for themselves about how best to prevent COVID
It remains unclear from where Fauci contracted the virus, but the announcement comes just two days after Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra announced a breakthrough case of COVID.
The diagnosis marked the second time in three weeks Becerra, 64, contracted it, after being vaccinated and boosted.
He was reportedly having mild symptoms and will also continue to isolate.
‘This morning in Sacramento, U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra tested positive for COVID-19 after taking an antigen test. He is fully vaccinated and boosted against COVID-19 and is experiencing mild symptoms,’ the agency said in a statement on Monday.
‘He will continue to perform his duties as HHS secretary, working in isolation.’
‘Secretary Becerra has not been considered a close contact of President Biden or Vice President Harris, as defined by the CDC. The Secretary remains engaged with the duties of his office from isolation, and is eager to return to in-person meetings, as quickly as possible.’