Dr. Anthony Fauci, the face of America’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, said in an interview published Monday that he would step down by the end of President Biden’s term — and warned that the US would be fighting the virus for decades to come.
“We’re in a pattern now. If somebody says, ‘You’ll leave when we don’t have COVID anymore,’ then I will be 105. I think we’re going to be living with this,” Fauci, 81, told Politico when asked if he feels an obligation to remain in his posts as White House chief medical adviser and director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases — which he has headed since 1984.
He reiterated his intention to step down in the coming months to the Washington Post in a separate interview.
“By the time we get to the end of the Biden administration term, I feel it would be time for me to step down from this position,” Fauci said.
Fauci, who has served seven presidential administrations in his more than five-decades long career in federal service, overcame his own bout with the coronavirus in mid-June despite being quadruple-vaccinated and sounded the alarm about the latest Omicron variant, BA.5, that has prompted an increase in cases.
At a White House briefing last week, Fauci warned Americans that even if they’ve been vaccinated or have recovered after being infected, they are still at risk.
“Immunity wanes, whether that’s immunity following infection or immunity following vaccine,” he said at the time.
“If you were infected with [variant] BA.1, you really don’t have a lot of good protection against BA.4/5,” added Fauci, referring to the most recent two Omicron strains that have been fueling the recent outbreaks.
“We should not let it disrupt our lives,” he said, “but we cannot deny that it is a reality that we need to deal with.”
Fauci also last week that as much as people want to put the “pandemic behind us, and feel hope that it doesn’t exist, it does.”
But he added that the US has the tools to fight it and urged people to get vaccinated, boosted and wear masks in certain situations.
“We’re not talking mandating anything,” he insisted, saying Biden’s advisers are only “recommending people when they are in indoor congregate settings to wear a mask.”
“Those are simple, doable things that can help prevent us from having even more of a problem than we’re having right now,” he said.
Monday’s interview wasn’t the first time that Fauci has talked about stepping down.
In May, he said he would depart if former President Donald Trump returns to the White House in 2024.
The two New York natives often butted heads during the 45th president’s administration, with Trump suggesting that he would fire the infectious disease expert if he won re-election in 2020.
Fauci was asked by CNN whether he had confidence that Trump could deal with a new pandemic if he was re-elected in 2024 and whether he would continue to serve as chief medical adviser to the White House.
“If you look at the history of what the [COVID-19] response was during the administration, I think at best you could say it wasn’t optimal,” Fauci said.
”And I think just history will speak for itself about that,” he added.