NEW YORK - Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious-disease expert, joined Good Day New York to discuss what's next for him after he prepares to step down from decades in public service at the end of the month. Fauci also discussed the COVID-19 pandemic, masks and the fear of a "tripledemic."
Good to be with you. So Dr. Fauci everybody's wondering about the next chapter. Are you a pickleball player or golfer? What will you be doing on your first day of your new chapter?
I’m certainly not gonna be playing pickleball or as I'm stepping down from federal service, as you know, that I've been involved with for 54 years, you know, 38 years of which I've been the director of the Institute, but I'm not retiring in the classic sense. So I'm going to what I would call the next chapter and doing some things within the arena. of public health and science and medicine, but only in a different venue, then in the auspices of the federal government. So in some respects, it really isn't a retirement. It's sort of a redirection for the next few years.
Well, a lot of people obviously lived on every word that you said when it came to COVID during the last few years, and now we're like in a new phase, as you know, people are still getting COVID But they're not running for the vaccines like they did over a year ago. And there is some concern because the you know, there's talk the federal government may not subsidize those vaccines that people may not get it. Are you concerned about that?
You know, I'm very concerned about it, because even though we're doing much better, much better now than we did a year ago where we were having hundreds of 1000s up to 800,000. Infections a day and anywhere between three and 4000 deaths per day. We're much lower than that right now. But it isn't over. You know, we're getting into the winter months, the holiday season, people will be congregating indoors. We have a updated booster vaccine that's available that can really go a long way to protecting you, certainly from severe disease, if not from infection at all. And unfortunately, there's not a very vigorous uptake of that vaccine. We're doing much, much lower from a percentage point that we shouldn't be doing you know, in some respects, that may be understandable because people want to be done with COVID. We've all been exhausted over the last three years. But there still is a lot to do to protect yourself and your family and ultimately your community. And that's the reason why as we're entering into the winter, we're really putting a full court press on to get people to get that updated bluster vaccine, already gotten it.
I think it's important that you said you know a lot of people are exhausted from this will take a page out of what's happening in LA County where they're saying that if they reach high transmission with the CDC levels that they're at right now. Which are in media, they probably will hit high any day now that they are going to bring back those mask mandates. What do you think I think a lot of people are don't want to be forced to put the mask back on if they want to where it makes them safe and they can have the right to do that. But what do you think these mandates good idea to bring them back.
You know, it really depends on the local situation. And you really can't make a broad generalization about that. You have to leave it up to the discretion of the local health authorities and you know, LA is a big city. They have very good health authorities. I know that all they have good judgment and we'll leave it up to them when they're there on the ground evaluating the situation. I mean, obviously you would like people to use good judgment to protect themselves and their family in that community without necessarily having to mandate anything because you know, there is a fatigue about being mandated. People don't like to be told what to do. Yeah. But you really want to very strongly encourage people that when you're having a rather strong uptick in infections, which is followed by an uptick in hospitalizations, you want to make sure you do something to mitigate against that. And I think that's what's going on in LA. So what I trust the LA officials, they're really good. They have a lot of calories, they know what they're doing.
Let's talk about the origin of COVID Because I know you're talking about the importance of figuring out where it came from. What what happens if that lab leak theory is proven true. I know you said you're open to the possibilities of looking at where this came from. And that could be possibility. So what happens after that?
Well, the reason why you want to know what the ultimate origin is that you want to make sure that you put things in place to prevent that from happening again. You know if it's the lab leak, and and and again, as I mentioned, and I keep repeating it, we all have an open mind, a large group of international evolutionary biologists have put together and published in a peer reviewed journals, considerable amount of evidence that this was a natural occurrence from an animal reservoir to a human, but this possibility still does exist, that it was a laboratory accident, and if it was, then you want to make sure at the international level, we put a lot of very good guidelines and guardrails about what one needs to do when you're in a lab doing important experiments that you need to ultimately to protect.
I was wondering, Dr. Fauci Did you read this Andrew Huff book? He claims he worked at the Wuhan lab, and he claims in this book that the virus escaped from the Wuhan lab because of lack of security.
Absolutely zero evidence of that. So anybody could write a book about anything, you know, like I came down from Mars and did something. So there I mean, it's a book with no evidence and no data. And unfortunately, Rosana, that's what we have these days. We have so much myths of disinformation that it just clouds, the picture of getting down to what the facts and the evidence show. So again, always keeping an open mind what you're referring to there is based on zero evidence
Looking back at your career for the last few decades, what are you most proud of?
Well, I mean, I'm most proud of, of several of the accomplishments that we were able to have over the last. Now almost six decades that I've been doing this from the development of the drugs for HIV in collaboration with the pharmaceutical companies that my institute that I've directed for the last almost 40 years, played a major role and that has resulted in literally saving millions of lives. The fact that I work with President George W. Bush, to put together the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, or PEPFAR, which clearly now over the last 20 years, has saved more than 20 million lives. The fact that I played a major role in that obviously makes me feel good about it. I didn't do it alone. I did it with a lot of help from a lot of people. But I did play a major role in that and that is something that I will always feel good about,
Like the Frank Sinatra song. I've got a few regrets. You know, I had a few any regrets? To mention? said okay, is that how you feel?
That's what Frank Sinatra said. So we might as well go along with that.
All right, let's talk about the holidays coming up because I guess for the first time in a long time, you'll be off for the holidays. Are you coming back to Dyker Heights to see the lights?
I am not even though it's a soft spot in my heart. To do that. I'm going to stay here with Washington. My three daughters who live in three separate parts of the country all coming into Washington to be with my wife and I. So that's where I'll be spending Christmas. Right here in Washington.
All right, and then next season MLB starts up again. Are you throwing out any more first pitches? Anyone call you up and ask him to do that?
Actually, not yet. No, I want to make the point a little I embarrass myself with a really a barren pitch that the Washington National opening. I did a pretty good job with the Seattle Mariners this year. I actually threw the ball over the plate for the first stock.
All right, that's good. All right, making us proud in Brooklyn, Dr. Anthony Fauci. Thank you so much. Good luck on your next chapter and consider pickleball it's a great, it's a great sport. Give it a try, guys. Thank you talk to you soon. Thank you. Thank you. Merry Christmas.