Anthony Fauci, a veteran scientist who has served seven US presidents since Ronald Reagan and spent more than 50 years at the US National Institutes of Health (NIH,) said on Monday that he intended to leave government service in December.
However, his retirement will be far from glorious given his missteps in the early stages of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, but he is also not the scapegoat for the US system failure in face of the public health crisis that has caused more than 1 million deaths and counting in the country, observers commented on Tuesday.
Fauci said on Monday US local time that he would step down as President Joe Biden's top medical adviser and director of the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, which he has led for 38 years, in order "to pursue the next chapter" of his career, The New York Times reported.
Although Fauci, as director of the infectious-diseases institute and an adviser to seven presidents, had worked on the front lines of every modern-day scourge, including AIDS, the 2001 anthrax scares, Ebola, Zika and the coronavirus pandemic, it was the latest coronavirus pandemic that catapulted him to worldwide fame and also ignited criticism from some Republican politicians and threats from the public, according to the Washington Post on Monday.
He has also acknowledged missteps: In the early weeks of the pandemic, Fauci and other government scientists said Americans did not need to wear masks, which former president Donald Trump seized on toward the end of his presidency to criticize Fauci and to question his expertise. And, like many other disease detectives, Fauci did not recognize early on that asymptomatic people were prime spreaders of the virus, the report said.
Fauci has found and would continue finding himself to be caught in what he called "political divisiveness" in the US since the Trump administration and in the foreseeable future, even after his retirement from the government service, as some far-right Republicans have said they would investigate Fauci if they win control of the Congress in the fall and there had been speculation that he would retire to avoid that possibility.
"Retirement can't shield Fauci from congressional oversight," Representative James Comer, the top Republican on the House Oversight Committee, tweeted. "The American people deserve transparency and accountability about how government officials used their taxpayer dollars, and @GOPoversight will deliver."
"Fauci had his career highlights in leading the US battle against AIDS, Ebola and Zika, however, he failed to land himself a decent curtain call with those major misjudgments in the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic," Lü Xiang, an expert on US studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, told the Global Times on Tuesday.
Fauci has also failed to defend his bottom line of being a scientist to step up to protest the anti-science sentiments that have proliferated as a result of deep national divisions infecting politics that have continued to worsen since the Trump administration, Lü noted.
Observers said that the public health crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic has fully exposed the corruption of the US political system, and Fauci should not be held as a scapegoat for the US tragedy.
Two and a half years into the COVID-19 pandemic, the US, despite being the world's largest economy, still detected more than 3 million cases in the past 28 days and COVID-19 has caused more than 1.04 million deaths in the country, according to data tracked by the US Johns Hopkins University.
What is also bad news for the US is that monkeypox has now also been reported in all 50 states as more than 14,000 cases had been reported across the country by Monday. Wyoming became the final state to report a case of the disease on Monday, ABC News reported, citing US CDC data.
There is no silver lining to be expected in the face of yet another infectious disease outbreak in the US, as political divisions have made it desperately impossible for the US federal government to organize effective prevention measures that state governments would strictly practice. "It is all about politics rather than science or truth these days in the US," Lü said.