Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s leading infectious disease expert, told Spectrum News on Friday that President Joe Biden is "doing fine" after his COVID-19 diagnosis.
“The good news is that [Biden is] in generally good health," Dr. Fauci told Spectrum News' Kevin Frey, mentioning he spoke with President Biden's physician Dr. Kevin O'Connor on Friday morning. "He's been vaccinated, he's been doubly boosted. And he's on an antiviral drug, Paxlovid, which clearly has a very positive impact in preventing people from progressing to severe disease.”
"Although nothing is ever guaranteed, we feel pretty confident that he's following what looks like a benign course," Dr. Fauci added. "But obviously, he'll be followed very closely to make sure that that course continues in a relatively mild manner."
Fauci spoke to Spectrum News one day after Biden tested positive for COVID-19. Despite the health concerns for the 79-year-old president, Biden's physician said Friday morning that the president's symptoms have improved and he is responding well to treatment.
Dr. Fauci himself recently recovered from COVID-19 after testing positive last month. Like the president, Fauci experienced "minor symptoms" and was treated with Paxlovid, though the infections disease expert said he experienced a rebound after having taken the oral antiviral. The president's chief medical adviser also made waves this week when he told CNN he would probably retire at the end of Biden's term, capping his decades-long career in public service.
When asked about what lessons we can learn from Biden testing positive, Dr. Fauci said that people in the U.S. need to come to terms with the fact that "we're gonna have to live with" COVID-19 for the forseeable future.
"We as a society and as a community are going to have to realize the fact that we're not going to eradicate this virus the way we did with smallpox, we're not even going to eliminate it the way we've done with diseases like measles and polio, for the most part, we're gonna have to live with it," Fauci said.
"The best way you do that is you keep the level of circulating virus in the community as low as you possibly can, even though you can't eliminate it," he continued, "and you get the citizens to be protected and to do common sense, standard public health measures such as vaccination, boosting at an appropriate time when your boosting is due, wearing masks in indoor settings when you are in a community in which the level of viral dynamics is high enough to be a reasonable threat for infection."
"You can do that without disrupting your essential interaction with society, which the President has done. He's the President of the United States. He's functioning very well as the President of the United States," Fauci added. "The fact that he got infected is not entirely surprising, but the good news is that he has followed the public health recommendations that we would hope the entire country would follow."
Dr. Fauci encouraged everyone to refer to the CDC's website about community transmission in their area and to take appropriate precautions, including masking up, particularly in congregate indoor settings, and getting vaccinated and boosted, especially in areas with higher population density like New York and Washington, wherewhere cases are on the rise compared to recent weeks.
Fauci also talked about the recent monkeypox outbreak, which has spread throughout several countries, including the United States; more than 2,400 cases have been reported in the U.S. since the outbreak began roughly two months ago.
On Thursday, the World Health Organization held an emergency meeting regarding the multi-country outbreak. The United Nations public health agency said it "remained concerned about the number of cases, in an increasing number of countries," reporting more than 14,000 cases from 71 WHO member countries.
The Biden administration has come under fire for its response to the outbreak from a number of Democratic lawmakers, including House Oversight Chair Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y., who wants answers about the federal government’s testing and vaccination strategy and how it plans to address the disproportionate impact the virus is having on the LGBTQ community, and Rep. Ritchie Torres, D-N.Y., who called for a probe into “the failed federal response to the monkeypox outbreak.”
Federal health officials admitted last week that demand for monkeypox vaccines had outstripped supply.
“I want to acknowledge that at this time the demand for vaccines from jurisdictions is higher than our current available supply, and we know that this is frustrating,” Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said during a call with reporters last Friday.
Dr. Fauci said that the Biden administration "admits that they always can do better."
"When you look at the emergence of a new serious issue, like monkey pox, we can do – and when I say 'we,' I mean the government when you talk about the FDA and the CDC – can and will do better."
Dr. Fauci praised the private companies that joined the CDC's testing efforts for monkeypox, but admitted that "we clearly need to get more vaccines into the community for the people who need them."
"Those things are in the process of being corrected," he said. "But early on, there were issues there. And that's the reason why both the FDA and the CDC are working hard to correct those."
Fauci encouraged those who are worried and might be waiting for a vaccine to "be prudent."
"When you have a situation where you're not protected, and you have a virus that's circulating in the community, is just prudent to just cool it for a while until you get that protection," he said, adding: "You don't want to interfere with a person's lifestyle, but you want to tell them be prudent. It's risky right now. Wait till we get everybody who needs the vaccine, to be vaccinated, get drugs ready to go and then go about your life. But right now, be prudent."