Let me share an interesting piece on Dr. Anthony Fauci, the face of the US COVID-19 response, as he wrestles with the hard lessons of the pandemic and the decisions that will define his legacy. Recently, he had a sit-down with The New York Times, and when asked about America’s botched response to COVID-19, he simply passed the buck.
Fauci argues that he never shut down any schools or factories and that he only provided public health recommendations, like the CDC. He admits that he isn’t an economist, so his advice was strictly from a public health standpoint, leaving broader assessments to others in charge.
Now, in a certain way, Fauci is correct. He never made the specific decisions to close schools or businesses, as those were made by governors, local elected officials, and school boards. Fauci also didn’t have the emergency powers to enforce public health measures, and he acknowledges that he and other health officials looked at the situation purely from a public health standpoint.
However, Fauci is understating the role he played in creating the mess. He pushed for the Trump administration to lock down, and he dismissed the Great Barrington Declaration, which called for a focus on protecting the vulnerable and letting everyone else resume normal life. Fauci also pushed back against evidence that lockdowns were causing unintended (though totally predictable) problems. “A group of epidemiologists and other public health experts in October 2020 signed The Great Barrington Declaration, which called for a focus on protecting the vulnerable and letting everyone else resume normal life. Soon after it was published, Fauci denounced the document as “nonsense and very dangerous.” Additionally, he dissembled about the usefulness of masks and the origins of the pandemic.
As Fauci now suggests that public officials should have spent more time listening to economists and other advisers, it’s both true and frustrating. It’s like having a friend in the back seat of your car who insists on turning left, but when you’re lost and running late, he insists it’s your fault for making the turn.
America’s COVID-19 failures have many parents, and it’s easy to singularly blame Fauci. However, that actually hides some of the policy lessons that should be learned from the past few years. Limiting emergency powers and holding decision-makers accountable are important steps.
Despite all the measures taken, America still suffered nearly 1.1 million excess deaths over the past three years, a total that exceeds Fauci’s “worst-case scenario” in March 2020. When confronted with this fact, Fauci admits that “something clearly went wrong.” And he’s right about that, at least.