Month of the poet. dedicated to bill milligan on the 1st anniversary of his transition. sat morn june 26 2021✨

Fauci commits acts of science 12 to 16 hours a day, seven days a week. No wonder the man wants a drink. But this schedule and suck-it-up worldview have allowed the 81-year-old — who serves as director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) and chief medical adviser to the president of the United States — to tackle one pandemic after another, from AIDS to covid-19. During the seven hours I’m at his house on a Sunday in June, I am uncomfortably aware that every moment we spend together is a moment when Fauci is not working.

I am also aware that it would be a moral crime to transmit the coronavirus to Fauci. So when I got covid two weeks before our interview, I obsessively parsed the guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: As long as I waited 10 days after my first positive test, I could still meet Fauci in person, right? No, I was informed by Fauci, via a member of his communications team. I would need to test negative three days in a row and wear a mask, even outdoors.

I manage to follow this guidance, but not to keep myself from extending my hand when I meet Fauci, which he shakes after one horrifying moment of hesitation. “I’m sorry I did that,” I say, uselessly. “No, it’s fine,” Fauci says with the resigned patience of a man who has dealt with many people who have made his life harder over the past few years. (Several days later, he will test positive for the coronavirus, as will two others who also attended the reunion for the College of the Holy Cross’s class of 1962, which took place the same June weekend as the dedication of the school’s Anthony S. Fauci Integrated Science Complex. For my mental health, I choose to believe the gathering of elders was the vector of infection.)

But for now, Fauci still thinks he’s avoided the virus, and suggests we relocate to the deck after he’s done cooking an egg in an ancient, teacup-size pan and smearing I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter on an English muffin for a breakfast sandwich. It’s safer that way, where my newly negative aerosols can disperse in the fresh air.

Fauci has lived in this comfortable but modest house since 1977. Its furnishings belie the conspiracy theories that he’s made a fortune profiting off the coronavirus: There are mismatched chairs, a print of a presumably-Italian canal, a near-shabby red couch decorated by a pillow screened with a cartoon of Fauci’s smiling face. The refrigerator is festooned with cheery aphorisms held up by Beatles magnets. A whiteboard in the kitchen bears the handwritten note “TOMORROW WILL BE BETTER — I PROMISE.”

Though Fauci earns $480,654 a year at NIAID — making him the highest-paid government employee, as Sen. Roger Marshall (R-Kan.) gleefully pointed out in January during a Senate hearing about the federal covid response — the salary is set by the agency that employs Fauci and increases at federally mandated intervals. The reason no one makes as much is because people at that skill level tend to leave government to make a lot more money. Fauci’s friend Ellen Sigal, who runs the nonprofit Friends of Cancer Research, says that if he worked outside of government, “he could have been worth not tens of millions, [but] billions. He could’ve cashed out. We needed him. He didn’t need us at all. I don’t think Tony is driven by money and avarice.”


Fauci became director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases in 1984. (Jesse Dittmar for The Washington Post)

On the deck, Fauci declines to put on sunscreen, citing his Mediterranean complexion. Sitting back, glasses-less, in a gray T-shirt and jeans belted at regulation dad height, Fauci explains why he hasn’t left NIAID for a higher private-sector salary, or even to take an entire weekend off work. If he’d stayed a regular doctor, he says, things would have been different. “I pride myself in having been — with all due modesty — a fantastically good clinician,” Fauci says of his early-career internship and residency days. “My responsibility would be to the patient, and I would take care of them throughout the night. But when you were off, you knew that somebody [else] was taking care of them. I could compartmentalize. I would go to the Caribbean and snorkel and scuba dive.”

Once he stepped into the director role at NIAID in 1984, however, he found that the “responsibilities are infinite. You’re trying to develop drugs. You’re trying to come up with a vaccine.” Even when momentarily straying from his duties, like walking with his wife, the bioethicist Christine Grady, “it was always like I could never let it go completely,” Fauci says. “It wasn’t like feeling uninhibitedly free. Once something still lingers as your responsibility, then it makes it very difficult for me to pull away from it.” Today, Fauci sounds ready to relinquish the burden; the end of his time leading NIAID is coming “sooner rather than later,” he tells me.

Since March 2020, Fauci has a been a ubiquitous presence in the news. But despite the countless stories about him and his endless TV appearances, most Americans still don’t have a sense of what he’s learned in his role as their top doctor: what he’s come to understand about pandemics, about the good and bad of government service, and, really, about all of us. Now feels like the time to get his analysis of the data he’s been collecting all these decades. After all, as Anthony Fauci knows better than anyone, there’s always another disease coming. And at some point, we’re going to have to heal without him. https://www.washingtonpost.com/magazine/2022/06/27/anthony-fauci-post-pandemic-interview/



thur june 30 2022 REmbr… G is, as G can only BE. GOOD

If I didn’t define myself, I’d be crunched into other people’s fantasies for me and eaten alive. audre lorde