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15 questions with Fauci: Top infectious disease expert talks safety during the pandemic
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15 questions with Fauci: Top infectious disease expert talks safety during the pandemic

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‌As a health journalist, a physician and a former foreign correspondent who lived through SARS in Beijing, I often get questions from friends, colleagues and people I don’t even know about how to live during the pandemic. Do I think it’s safe to plan a real wedding next June? Would I send my kids to school, with appropriate precautions? When will I trust a vaccine?

To the last question, I always answer: When I see Anthony Fauci take one.

Like many Americans, I take my signals from Dr. Fauci, the country’s top infectious disease expert and a member of the White House task force on the coronavirus. When he told The Washington Post that he was not wiping down packages but just letting them sit for a couple of days, I started doing the same. In October, he remarked that he was bringing shopping bags into the house. He merely washes his hands after unpacking them.

Virus Outbreak Senate

Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases,

Dr. Anthony Fauci, departs after a Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee hearing on Capitol Hill in June in Washington.

Now we are in a dangerous political transition, with cases spiking in much of the country and Fauci and the original task force largely sidelined. President-elect Joe Biden has appointed his own, but it can’t do much until the General Services Administration signals that it accepts the results of the election. President Donald Trump has resisted the norms on government transition, in which the old and new teams brief each other and coordinate.

The past tumultuous months have been filled with information gaps (we’re still learning about the novel coronavirus), misinformation (often from the president) and a host of “experts” — public health folks, mathematical modelers, cardiologists and emergency room doctors like me — offering opinions on TV. But all this time, the person I’ve most wanted to hear from is Fauci. He’s a straight shooter, with no apparent conflicts of interest — political or financial — or, at 79, career ambition.

So I asked him how Americans might expect to live in the next six to nine months. How should we behave? And what should the next administration do? Some answers have been edited for clarity and brevity.

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