Anthony Fauci, a prominent member of the Trump administration’s coronavirus task force and the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), is set to formally meet with President-elect Joe Biden’s transition team on Thursday afternoon.
Fauci has already spoken to some members of Biden’s incoming administration, including future chief of staff Ron Klain. In an interview on MSNBC earlier on Thursday, Fauci said he hasn’t spoken directly with Biden since his presidential win, but that he was looking forward to a virtual meeting with the team of health experts he has assembled to help Biden transition into the White House.
“I’m going to be meeting virtually, talking about just substantive, uncomplicated transition issues like vaccines and the state of the epidemic and things like that,” Fauci said.
Fauci also said he expects to continue on as director of NIAID, a position he’s held since 1984. As far as what else he could do for the Biden administration, Fauci said that’d be up to the president-elect — although he did have an idea of what Biden has in store for him.
“What contribution I will make in the new administration depends on the new administration,” Fauci explained. “But I cannot imagine I’m not going to be involved in the COVID-19 response. I mean that would, I think, be unheard of if that’s the case. But we’ll see.”
Fauci’s addition to Biden’s team of experts would likely be received well by most Americans. The infectious disease expert is widely regarded as a trustworthy source on matters related to COVID-19, with a recent Politico/Morning Consult poll showing that 62 percent of Americans feel he’s done an “excellent” or “good” job during the pandemic so far.
Another 17 percent in that poll said Fauci has done a “fair” job, while only 13 percent described his work as “poor.”
In an interview on C-SPAN last week, Fauci was asked whether he’d consider taking on a role in the Biden administration similar to the one he’s had under President Donald Trump. “Of course, yes,” Fauci said in the interview. “The answer is absolutely.”
A transition to a new administration would likely make a big difference for Fauci. Biden takes a significantly more science-based approach to coronavirus than Trump does, such as wearing a mask in almost all of his public appearances. His campaign for president was also conducted with virtual and socially distant-friendly events, while Trump tended to hold large, packed campaign rallies that appeared indifferent to the pandemic.
Fauci would likely find his opinion more respected under Biden, too. For much of the COVID-19 crisis, Trump tended to disregard Fauci’s opinions, and at times expressed hostile opinions about the NIAID director. During a conference call in October, for example, Trump called Fauci and others who expressed worry about the administration’s approach to coronavirus “idiots,” though he acknowledged that if he tried to fire Fauci during the campaign it would have set off a metaphorical “bomb.”
Fauci’s meeting with Biden’s transition team comes at a perilous time during the coronavirus pandemic. On Wednesday, it was reported that deaths related to COVID-19 reached 3,157 in a single day, a record high that surpassed the previous one by more than 500 deaths.
More than 13.9 million Americans have received positive coronavirus diagnoses since the pandemic began, with more than 273,000 deaths.