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Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases who is retiring later this year, admitted “certain aspects” of the government’s response to the coronavirus pandemic were “botched,” including the flip-flop on masking recommendations and the slow rollout of rapid testing nationwide.
“They did not get the commercial involvement in the tests quickly. They stuck to their own tests,” Fauci said in an interview that aired Thursday at the Texas Tribune Festival. “We didn’t know masks worked outside of the hospital setting.
“There was supposedly a shortage of good masks for the people who were taking care of individuals.”
While public health officials have reversed course on some policies, Fauci said that closing down schools at the beginning of the pandemic may have been worth it despite the ensuing learning loss for children.
“There is a misunderstanding that because children do not get as severe disease as a cohort, in general, as the elderly individuals and those with underlying conditions — we still lost 1,400 children,” Fauci said. “So, although you have to be aware and not deny that there are deleterious consequences for prolonged periods of time for keeping children out of school, remember, the safety of children is also important.”
A Department of Education study published last month found that reading scores in children saw their largest decrease in three decades during the pandemic, while math scores saw their first decrease ever.
Other health officials have also called out the response by governments to the pandemic around the world.
The Lancet COVID-19 Commission, a panel of international experts, wrote in a report last week that governments “showed themselves to be untrustworthy and ineffective” during the pandemic by failing to “adhere to basic norms of institutional rationality and transparency.”
CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky ordered a reorganization of the public health agency last month, saying that the agency’s response to COVID-19 “did not reliably meet expectations” after 75 years of preparation.
Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., pledged to investigate Fauci if the GOP takes back the House of Representatives or the Senate in the midterm elections.
Fauci said he has become a “boogeyman” for conservatives but would cooperate with any congressional investigations after he retires.
“I did not like the idea that, in order to maintain my personal and scientific integrity, and in order to fulfill my obligation to the country, as a public health official and as a scientist, I had to publicly disagree with several of the things that [former President Donald Trump], who they follow to the last word, was saying,” Fauci said.
President Biden declared victory over coronavirus during an interview with “60 Minutes” that aired Sunday.
“The pandemic is over. We still have a problem with COVID. We’re still doing a lot of work on it. It’s — but the pandemic is over,” he said.
When asked by Texas Tribune CEO Evan Smith why more Americans died from COVID-19 during the first year of the Biden administration than during all of 2020 despite the advent of vaccines, Fauci pointed the blame to roughly one-third of Americans who are still unvaccinated.
“If the country doesn’t want to get vaccinated, the country doesn’t want to wear a mask in an indoor setting, there’s not much the president can do about that,” Fauci said.