WASHINGTON — Dr. Anthony Fauci said Thursday that he remains focused on his work fighting the coronavirus pandemic despite reports of threats to his personal safety.
In an interview on NBC’s “TODAY” show, host Savannah Guthrie asked the nation’s top infectious disease expert whether he feels personally threatened or whether he and his family feel safe, a reference to reports that he has received a protection from the federal government.
“I’ve chosen this life. I mean I know what it is,” Fauci said. “There are things about it that are sometimes disturbing. But you just focus on the job you have to do, and just put all that stuff aside and try as best as possible not to pay attention to it.”
Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, appeared to dismiss the reported threats, saying the coronavirus outbreak will be a very difficult situation in the coming weeks and adding “all of that other stuff is secondary.”
Fauci, who has advocated strong social distancing measures to slow the spread of coronavirus and appears regularly at the White House’s daily news briefings on the pandemic, has received a security detail from the federal government after receiving threats to his personal safety, according to The Washington Post. Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar grew concerned about Fauci’s safety, and HHS asked the U.S. Marshals Service to deputize agents from the department’s inspector general to protect him, the report said.
NBC News has not confirmed the report, but Fauci did not deny it on “TODAY” or when it came up at the task force briefing on Wednesday.
During the interview on Thursday, Fauci also said he finds it “very disturbing” how someone who’s asymptomatic can shed high levels of the disease caused by the coronavirus and can accidentally spread the infection.
“I mean, the idea of someone who’s asymptomatic shedding high titers of virus is very disturbing — because that person could be out there, feeling well, and inadvertently and innocently spreading the infection,” Fauci said when asked about a new study that showed that patients with mild symptoms can emit high levels of the virus early on.
“It is very strange how one individual can get infected and have either mild or no symptoms and another individual could rapidly deteriorate with viral pneumonia and respiratory failure,” he said.
Fauci noted that he’s been studying infectious diseases for nearly 50 years, adding, “I still don’t fully understand” the mechanism causing these stark differences in the effects of coronavirus on people.
“We really need to figure it out, because it can be completely devastating rapidly in one person and absolutely nothing in another person,” he said.