Anthony Fauci, MD, who currently serves as both President Joe Biden’s chief medical adviser and the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), has become the face of the U.S. COVID response over the last few years—urging Americans to follow safety precautions and get vaccinated to protect themselves from the virus. For a long time, it was clear that Fauci was practicing what he preached, as the virus expert managed to avoid a COVID infection for two years. In June 2022, however, the NIAID director finally tested positive for the coronavirus—and now, he’s ready to reveal how he got infected. Read on to find out “exactly” how Fauci got COVID.
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On June 15, Fauci tested positive for COVID for the first time on a rapid antigen test, according to a news release from the National Institutes of Health (NIH). The infectious disease expert told The New York Times he received the positive result after experiencing a “scratchy throat” and added that his initial symptoms were quite mild.
But following three consecutive days of negative tests after a five-day course of Paxlovid, Fauci was “surprised and disappointed” to find that he had tested positive for COVID again. In what experts have deemed a Paxlovid rebound case, Fauci said he experienced a recurrence of symptoms that were worse than his initial case, including a low fever, aches, a runny nose, and a “mild cough,” per The New York Times.
Fauci has since recovered, praising both vaccines and Paxlovid for keeping his illness from being severe. “I’m 81 years old, I was at risk for hospitalization and I didn’t even come close to being sick enough to be hospitalized,” he told the newspaper. In an earlier White House press briefing, Fauci said, “I think I’m an example, given my age, of what we’re all talking about today. I’m vaccinated. I’m doubly boosted. And I believe if that were not the case, I very likely would not be talking to you looking as well as I look, I think, right now.”
It was somewhat shocking to find that Fauci had been infected with COVID, as the White House adviser had been extra diligent about his precautions. Now, Fauci is opening up about how he let his guard down and got sick.
During an Aug. 24 interview on healthcare advisor Andy Slavitt’s In the Bubble podcast, Fauci said he knows “exactly when” he got infected with COVID. According to the virus expert, it all came down to a choice he made while he was attending his 60th college reunion for the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Massachusetts.
“I went into the reception and all of my classmates from the Class of 1962 were unmasked. They saw me, they got very enthusiastic, they came to give hugs. So I felt I looked so out of place with a mask on,” Fauci admitted. “I literally took my mask off for about 45 minutes, mingling with them and their family. Went back, put my mask on. Five days later, bingo, I was infected. It’s all it took.”
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In June, Holy Cross spokesman John Hill told The Boston Globe that at least three people—including Fauci—had tested positive for COVID after the reunion. According to Hill, the over 1,200 plus attendees were “encouraged to take a COVID test” prior to coming to campus for the event. But Fauci now says that this showcases COVID’s “remarkable transmissibility,” especially in the face of the now-dominant Omicron subvariant, BA.5.
During his interview on In The Bubble, Fauci told Slavitt that before the reunion, he had “been compulsively careful about wearing masks and not, you know, being exposed in congregate settings.” So when he tested positive after gathering indoors unmasked for less than an hour, it was a very personal reminder of the “incredible transmissibility” of the virus now.
A poll from Axios and Ipsos released on Aug. 16 has found that despite a significant number of Americans continuing to be infected with COVID, they’re now less likely to change their behavior to avoid the virus. According to the poll, “reported mask use is at its lowest point of the pandemic,” with fewer than 2 in 5 Americans saying they now sometimes or always wear a mask outside their homes. This is down significantly from the 73 percent who said they were doing so in Jan. 2022.
During an Aug. 9 event hosted by the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center in Seattle, Fauci said that people’s aversion to wearing masks has become somewhat “inexplicable.” “When you tell people they need to mask in an indoor congregate setting when you’re in a zone that has a high dynamic of infection‚ that is looked upon by a lot of people, not everybody, as an encroachment on your freedom,” he said. “We’ve never had that before. It’s almost inexplicable.”