WASHINGTON — Maybe it was only a matter of time.
dr. Anthony S. Fauci, President Biden’s chief medical adviser for the coronavirus pandemic, has tested positive for the virus and is experiencing “mild symptoms,” the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases said Wednesday.
dr. Fauci, the institute’s director, was positive about a rapid antigen test, the agency said in a statement. It added that he had been fully vaccinated against the virus and had been boosted twice. He is taking Paxlovid, Pfizer’s antiviral therapy approved by the Food and Drug Administration to treat Covid-19, an agency spokeswoman said.
The news that Dr. Fauci, one of the world’s foremost infectious disease specialists and a household name thanks to the pandemic, had fallen victim to the coronavirus, reverberated in Washington and the country. The positive test was the first for Dr. Fauci, who is 81.
But since the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that more than half of Americans have contracted Covid-19, he’s not the only big name patient. Xavier Becerra, the Secretary of Health and Human Services, tested positive for the second time in less than a month on Monday. California Democrat Maxine Waters, who is 83, announced Tuesday that she had tested positive; she had done that in April.
dr. Fauci has not been in close contact with Mr Biden or other senior government officials lately and will “isolate and continue to work from his home,” his institute statement said. He returns to his office as soon as he tests negative.
But he had made public appearances. The AIDS Clinical Trials Group — a network of hundreds of researchers conducting studies to improve treatment for HIV and related infections — is meeting in Washington this week, and Dr. Fauci, whose lab work has focused on HIV/AIDS, addressed the group in person on Tuesday.
Along with other senior federal health officials, Dr. Fauci expects to testify before the Senate health committee on Thursday about the state of the pandemic. An official said Dr. Fauci worked with committee staff to arrange a remote appearance.
While much of the nation seems to be trying to move forward, the coronavirus remains a ubiquitous threat. More than 100,000 new cases are still identified each day in the United States, according to a DailyExpertNews database — a figure that has roughly remained the same in June. Many experts believe that the number is too low because so many people are doing tests at home, the results of which are not registered with the public health authorities.
While cases are declining in the Northeast and Midwest, cases and hospitalizations are increasing in the West and South. However, the number of deaths remains low. Fewer than 350 deaths are reported each day, The Times database shows, compared to more than 2,600 a day at the height of the Omicron wave.
dr. Fauci has served in government for half a century and has advised seven presidents, starting with Ronald Reagan, on epidemic and pandemic threats.
But the coronavirus pandemic changed Dr. Fauci in a political lightning rod. His public insistence on health precautions such as mask-wearing and social distancing made him a frequent target of critics who questioned or opposed such measures.
He may know better than anyone how contagious the coronavirus is. This spring, he decided not to attend the White House Correspondents’ Dinner — a gathering of prominent political and news media figures featuring the president’s appearance — “because of my individual assessment of my personal risk,” he said at the time. At that time, Dr. Fauci has been preparing for other public engagements, including speeches at the beginning of Princeton and the University of Michigan.
The correspondent dinner, which drew more than 2,000 guests to a packed hotel ballroom, eventually spread the virus to many journalists and other attendees.
“It’s only a matter of time before we all get infected, frankly; this virus has become so transmissible,” said Dr. Carlos del Rio, an infectious disease specialist at Emory University, Wednesday. “What I’m telling people is that at some point you’re going to have to deal with this virus because we’re doing more things and coming together. And if you are going to encounter the virus, you better get vaccinated and boosted.”