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Anthony Fauci, the government’s top infectious diseases expert, tested positive for COVID-19 on Wednesday but is experiencing “mild symptoms,” the National Institutes of Health (NIH) said.
“He is fully vaccinated and has been boosted twice,” the agency said. “He is currently experiencing mild symptoms. Dr. Fauci will isolate and continue to work from his home. He has not recently been in close contact with President Biden or other senior government officials.”
Fauci has been the face of the government’s response to COVID-19 for more than two years and has previously avoided testing positive for the virus. But he is the latest in a long string of high-profile cases among lawmakers and government officials in Washington, D.C.
Biden is so far one of the few top government officials who has avoided getting it, though the White House acknowledges he could.
While Fauci is 81, cases are significantly less worrisome today than in the early days of the pandemic, before vaccines and booster shots were available, though there remains some risk.
Pfizer’s treatment pill, Paxlovid, also lowers the risk for high-risk people who test positive.
Fauci’s positive case illustrates how widespread infections have become, with many people having tested positive at least once. Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra tested positive a second time in less than a month this week.
New subvariants of omicron have shown an increased infectiousness and an ability to evade vaccines to a certain degree, such that there is far from complete protection against getting infected. Vaccines and booster shots still provide valuable protection against severe disease, which many experts view as the most crucial.
The White House has maintained that tools like boosters and Paxlovid mean the country is in a new era of the virus where cases have been defanged to some degree.
“Dr. Fauci will follow the COVID-19 guidelines of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and medical advice from his physician and return to the NIH when he tests negative,” the NIH said.
Updated at 3:15 p.m.