(CNN) — Dr. Anthony Fauci was a regular on US television as the pandemic raged across the country and millions sought out the leading expert for information and guidance on how to defeat the virus.
She also answered dozens of questions every day off-screen, answering emails from team members, former colleagues, old friends, reporters, producers, celebrities, and sometimes strangers desperate for advice or looking to leave a “thank you” note. ».
BuzzFeed News posted more than 3,200 pages of emails from Fauci’s inbox after receiving correspondence spanning January to June 2020, and The Washington Post posted excerpts from more than 860 pages of emails during March and April 2020. CNN also got several emails from February, but many were heavily edited.
While many federal government employees prefer the phone to email, this correspondence offers a rare glimpse into Fauci’s hectic schedule and courteous, direct demeanor during the time he emerged as a rare source of frank honesty within the group of covid-19 work of the Trump administration.
But they also reveal the weight that came with the paper.
“This is the White House in overdrive and I’m in the middle of it,” Fauci wrote in a Feb. 2 email posted by BuzzFeed. “Reminiscent of the days after anthrax.”
Two days later, responding to a journalist, he writes: “I am very tired. I don’t sleep much these days.
‘I’m holding on’
Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, and a physician at the National Institutes of Health for more than 50 years, had worked for six U.S. presidents, including then-President Donald Trump before becoming the public face of the federal response to covid-19.
It didn’t take long for questions to hit her inbox, often from news stations around the world and radio shows requesting several minutes of her interview time.
Howard Bauchner, editor-in-chief of JAMA, He emailed Fauci on February 5 with a note at the bottom: “You are surviving – I am a little concerned about your workload.”
“I’m holding on,” Fauci replied, according to emails obtained by BuzzFeed. “It feels like my internship and my first year residency when I was on duty every other night and every other weekend, but I never really left the hospital because the patients were so sick.”
Several weeks later, the director of the National Institutes of Health, Dr. Francis Collins, head of Fauci, attached a short reminder at the end of his email to Fauci: “Get some sleep!”
In a interview with CNN’s Wolf Blitzer in June, Fauci called the job “exhausting.”
“I’m chronically fatigued, I don’t sleep much,” he said. “I’m constantly reporting, talking, doing things, hopefully pushing the right cause forward.”
And if exhaustion ever turned to frustration, Fauci certainly never let it show. Their exchanges, although brief, always seemed pleasant. “Let’s discuss it,” he would tell his team when a new request came in. “Thank you for your note,” was often her response to the dozens of thank you notes that came to her.
‘Feel free to call or send an email’
Even though the plate was already overwhelmed by a pandemic that was out of control, Fauci found the time to respond to supportive notes and medical advice questions, even when they came from complete strangers.
When someone reached out on March 4 with a question about whether pneumonia vaccines could provide any protection against severe COVID-19, Fauci responded in detail about an hour later.
“OMG,” the person replied, according to emails posted by BuzzFeed. “Honestly, I never expected him to respond and I thank him from the bottom of my heart for being so generous.”
When a doctor emailed him in late February suspecting a patient might have coronavirus, Fauci advised on the next steps to take, emails posted by BuzzFeed show.
“Feel free to call or email me,” he said goodbye.
For those who approached fearful of what might happen, Fauci was honest, both about what the experts knew and what they didn’t.
“The really critical issue is what the fatality rate actually turns out to be,” he wrote in a March 2 email posted by BuzzFeed. “I expect a considerably lower fatality rate, but that might be an illusion. Whatever it is, the main tools we have are public health measures, particularly social distancing, which we have to start doing right now.
At the time, he said, a vaccine candidate was soon beginning her Phase 1 trial, but added that “a vaccine is out of the question for at least a year or more.”
‘I’ve never had a muzzle’
The veteran doctor gained dozens of supporters and detractors as he stood firm against a sometimes overly optimistic Trump, who frequently sought to downplay the severity of the pandemic.
Fauci and Trump disagreed on how to tackle the pandemic, what was the right message for the American people, and how to balance reopening with preventing further contagion. Regardless, Trump insisted that he respected Fauci, but disagreed with his approach. But at the lowest point in their relationship, Trump suggested he was considering firing him. Attacks by Trump allies led to the need for more security equipment. In August, Fauci told CNN’s Sanjay Gupta that he had to get security protection after his family received death threats and harassment.
When a concerned Chinese health official approached, Fauci responded, “Everything is fine despite some crazy people in this world,” according to an April email obtained by BuzzFeed and the Post.
Despite everything, Fauci maintained that politics never influenced him or deterred him from telling the truth.
When a columnist sent an email in late February asking if Fauci had received orders for approval before speaking publicly about the virus, Fauci said: ‘I was never muzzled or told that I could not speak publicly about anything during this administration. “According to emails posted by BuzzFeed.
After a March 1 email from a psychologist expressing concern that Fauci was being censored, he replied: “I can assure you that they are not censoring me.”
As the former president’s time in office began to shrink, the president’s advisers restricted how much Fauci could appear on television to offer warnings and removed the invitation to brief Trump in the Oval Office.
His troubled relationship stands in stark contrast to President Joe Biden’s promotion to Fauci as consulting medical director, a role in which he has been free to promote public health advice without the scorn of the Oval Office.
During his first press conference under the Biden administration, Fauci noted that the days of overconfidence and loose data were over.
“One of the novelties of this administration is that if you don’t know the answer, don’t guess,” he said in January. Just say you don’t know the answer.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism