End of an era: Anthony Fauci, the face of the US' coronavirus response, to retire before end of Biden's term

It’s the end of an era. Anthony Fauci, M.D., the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) who clinched celebrity status during the COVID-19 pandemic, is hanging up his hat.

After more than 50 years in government, Fauci, who also serves as top medical adviser to the commander in chief, will retire by the close of President Joe Biden’s term, Politico first reported.  

“By the time we get to the end of the Biden administration term, I feel it would be time for me to step down from this position,” Fauci separately told The Washington Post.

Fauci has helmed the ship at NIAID since 1984, advising seven presidents through a gauntlet of public health crises from HIV and AIDS to Ebola and, most recently, COVID-19.

Starting in 2020, that role often put Fauci at odds with the Trump administration, adding fuel to a public and highly partisan clash over coronavirus mitigation efforts such as lockdowns and mask mandates.

Back in April of that year, Fauci told CNN’s “State of the Union” that earlier virus intervention in the U.S. “could have saved lives” had it not been for “a lot of pushback” on initial social distancing strategies. In response, former President Donald Trump retweeted a message calling for Fauci to be fired.

Firing Fauci quickly trended on Twitter, as did the dueling “#SaveFauci” topic.

For Fauci, things have gone much more smoothly under Biden, who tapped the infectious disease expert as his chief medical adviser.

“I asked him to stay on in the exact same role he’s had for the past several presidents, and I asked him to be a chief medical adviser for me as well and be part of the COVID team,” Biden told CNN at the time.

Now, while nearly 90% of the adult U.S. population has received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the virus doesn't look poised to vanish anytime soon.

Though Fauci once expounded on the potential of social distancing and vaccines to help the U.S. achieve herd immunity, he told Politico on Monday that “[w]e’re in a pattern now.” When it comes to COVID, “I think we’re going to be living with this,” the NIAID director added.

Fauci warned the news service that while the fight’s not over, fatigue could make Americans complacent about the virus.

“It’s becoming more and more difficult to get people to listen, because even the people who are compliant want this behind them,” he said.

Fauci’s vocal support for lockdowns and mask mandates—plus his tendency to butt heads with Trump over potential COVID treatments and the virus’s danger—has made him a target for certain Republican lawmakers. Several have pledged to launch probes into Fauci’s work, the Post points out, noting that Republicans are widely expected to wrest control of the House in the November midterms.

“They’ll try to beat me up in public, and there’ll be nothing there,” Fauci told the Post in March. “But it will distract me from doing my job, the way it’s doing right now.”