The nation’s top infectious disease expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci, has been conspicuously absent from national television interviews over the last two weeks, as the White House moves ahead with reopening the economy.
Fauci, the head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, last gave a television interview when he spoke to CNN anchor Chris Cuomo on May 4th.
Prior to his recent absence from the airwaves, Fauci was regularly appearing on national news programs to update the American people on the country’s fight against the coronavirus.
While Fauci has been on “modified quarantine” after possible exposure to the virus, he has still been present at the White House and testified remotely before the Senate last week.
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Fauci’s absence was particularly noteworthy this week, given the positive early results regarding a vaccine developed by the biotech company Moderna in partnership with the National Institutes of Health, which Fauci’s NIAID falls under.
Despite the NIH’s role in helping to develop the vaccine, Fauci did not appear for interviews to discuss the promising results.
Fauci was present at Trump’s “Operation Warp Speed” briefing last Friday, when the administration detailed a plan to roll out an eventual vaccine. He was wearing a mask and standing behind the President. But he didn’t make any comments, unlike at other briefings and events where he was front and center.
Instead, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar, who oversees the NIH, has taken the lead to discuss a potential vaccine, appearing Sunday on CNN’s “State of the Union” and CBS News’ “Face the Nation.”
Spokespeople for NIH, NIAID and the White House, which had coordinated interviews for the coronavirus task force, did not offer comment when asked Wednesday why Fauci suddenly stopped granting interviews.
Fauci did, however, offer comment to the Washington Post for a story that was published Wednesday after CNN had asked the White House and NIH about his absence.
Fauci’s absence comes as the newly implemented White House communications team has changed its public relations strategy for the pandemic.
President Trump, who previously held freewheeling news conferences, has stopped doing so on a daily basis following an effort among aides and allies who believed the briefings damaged him politically.
And in recent weeks, the White House has refocused its message on reopening the country amid the economic havoc wreaked by the virus.
While the President and White House have pushed for the reopening of the economy, some experts have cautioned it could be too soon.
Amid the debate, the nation’s top physicians, such as Fauci and Dr. Deborah Birx, the White House coronavirus response coordinator, have largely been absent from the conversation.