The â€œNationâ€™s Doctor,â€ Anthony Fauci, M.D., director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases since 1984, is held as a hero by many as our nation and world grapple with the COVID 19 pandemic, which is close to claiming 10,000 American lives and some 80,000 worldwide. More than 1.3 million worldwide are said to have the virus.
Fauci, 79, is noted for being accessible to the press as far back as the AIDS epidemic where he cut his teeth as the nationâ€™s top infectious disease expert. I covered his speeches during that period.
In a recent interview Fauci was asked about â€œWet markets,â€ in which live animals are skinned and sold to patrons in China, notably horseshoe bats â€“ which carry Coronaviruses.
â€œ[They] should shut down those things right away,â€ Fauci told ‘Fox & Friends” . â€œIt just boggles my mind that when we have so many diseases that emanate out of that unusual human-animal interface that we donâ€™t just shut it down.â€
And, the Hill article notes that the Chinese communist government â€œtried to shut them down in 2013,â€ but it led to black markets.
While COVID 19 is considered a â€œnovelâ€ new virus, it is a Sudden Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) variety â€“ the SARS epidemic in 2002-03 emanated from a wet market and spread mostly in China and the Far East, resulting in 8,096 cases and 774 deaths â€“ which means it had a higher death rate than COVID 19, so far.
But while Fauci was calling for the abolition of wet markets on TV after the fact, the reality is his agency has funded some $852 million in research since 2008 on SARS and Coronaviruses, according to this site which tracks NIH grants.
And, some of that research has been published in reputable medical journals â€“ and listed on the NIH web site.
For example, on the NIAID web site in November 2013, this abstract appeared from a team of Chinese and American researchers about bat coronavirus. It reads:
Our results provide the strongest evidence to date that Chinese horseshoe bats are natural reservoirs of SARS-CoV, and that intermediate hosts may not be necessary for direct human infection by some bat SL-CoVs
In 2016, another NIH-funded study found â€œa SARS-like cluster of circulating bat coronaviruses shows potential for human emergence.â€
Then, in April 2018, NIAID actually issued a news release about a â€œa newly identified coronavirus that killed nearly 25,000 piglets in 2016-17 in China [which] emerged from horseshoe bats near the origin of the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus (SARS-CoV), which emerged in 2002 in the same bat species.â€
Published in the reputable journal, â€œNature,â€ NIH added: â€œThe researchers say the finding is an important reminder that identifying new viruses in animals and quickly determining their potential to infect people is a key way to reduce global health threats.â€
In addition, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) was actually funding a program to teach the Chinese how to identify pandemics, called PREDICT. A Los Angeles Times article published April 5 said this program â€œworked with labs around the world, including the facility in Wuhan, China, that first identified the novel coronavirus. One of their missions was to discover and analyze zootonic diseases, which jump from humans to animals. The novel coronavirus is one such disease.â€
Although the Times faults the Trump administration for ending the program in September 2019, buried in the article is a line that in January 2019 the New York times reported the program â€œhad essentially collapsed into hibernation and it was due the ascension of risk averse bureaucrats.â€
Fauci, however, never mentioned PREDICT nor the Obama-era Pandemic task force â€“ which liberal critics feel Trump abolished and could have limited this pandemic — in this December 2017 in the Annals of Internal Medicine in 2017 where he outlines lessons learned from his 30 years working with various administration to control pandemics.
But Fauci and his co-authors write that the SARS â€œoutbreak was successfully controlled with classic public health measures, including early case identification, patient isolation, and use of personal protective equipment by health care workers, even before specific countermeasures were developed.â€
So, why would he downplay the virus in January and February after writing in 2017 about the importance of â€œpatient isolationâ€ (i.e. social distancing)?
Furthermore, he says â€œNIAID played a critical role in the research response to SARS, developing preclinical vaccine candidates in less than a year by using several novel technologies (29â€“31).â€ However, he notes: â€œ Given the resolution of the SARS pandemic, the leading vaccine candidates were not commercially developed; however, they are serving as templates for vaccine approaches to other coronaviruses. Moreover, this rapid response set the pace for our research response to future infectious disease threats.â€
Rapid response? If NIH and industry could not develop a vaccine for SARS over the last 15 years, and with $852 million in funding various projects, how can he be out there daily urging for a vaccine for COVID 19, which we know could not be ready until later this year at the earliest? And then, he differs with President Trump on the benefits of hydroxychloroquine for treating COVID patients.
Fearing the extreme social distancing and stay at home orders are having on the U.S. economy, over the last week, a number of conservative writers and commentators are starting to question Fauciâ€™s public statements â€“ notably,Â Tucker Carlson on Fox News who showed video of Fauci downplaying the virus, but then telling CNN in response to a question last week why there are no nationwide stay-at-home orders,Â â€œI donâ€™t know why weâ€™re not doing that.â€
Carlsonâ€™s critique was followed by this extensive account of Fauciâ€™s differing statements in the media, written by a senior fellow at the George Washington University Center for Cyber & Homeland Security
Conservatives are clearly the most skeptical about this epidemic and are trying to the focus more of the blame on China for suppressing COVID 19 as the liberal establishment due to the upcoming election is focusing the blame largely on Trump.
However, nobody is really questioning Fauci about his failings and what seems to be the lack of communication with other agencies of the U.S. government that could have intervened with China earlier.
And, the fact he has Trumpâ€™s ear, I wonder if Fauciâ€™s inconsistent statements contribute to the presidentâ€™s inconsistencies.
It also seems Fauci is above reproach by the media (who want interviews with him) and politicians who just donâ€™t want to look beyond what he says. In some respects, heâ€™s become the J. Edgar Hoover of Public Health â€“ none dare question him.
Perhaps his â€œmitigationâ€ measures like stay at home orders â€“ even in areas with low prevalence â€“ is just medical cautiousness — â€œDo no harm.â€ Or, is it CYA for the failures of NIH and the Public Health Service to prevent this epidemic from spreading?
Now, our economy is in a shambles. A number of shuttered businesses may not reopen due to extreme stay-at-home measures. Millions are unemployed and our government is going into deeper debt with borrowing to help people and business. And, thousands are dying.
I blame Fauci and other PHS agency heads for not communicating this coronavirus timebomb sooner â€“ especially given Trump has been standing up to China on trade.
Last week, I faulted New York and New Jersey officials for the death rate and spreading in their states and itâ€™s largely due to the failure of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, state and local health departments and how they report disease surveillance. I hope to cover CDC and FDA in a subsequent article.