This Is Dr. Fauci's Single Biggest Regret About COVID

Fauci says the handling of the pandemic has been hampered by this one "divisive" issue.

Anthony Fauci, MD, our nation's top infectious disease expert and the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) has a lot to be proud of in his handling of the coronavirus crisis. He's steered the nation through skyrocketing cases, misinformation, an ambivalent public, and a disjointed national response to COVID's containment—all while walking the tightrope of partisan politics.

But that doesn't mean that Fauci doesn't have a few of his own regrets. Yes, he typically focuses on the concrete measures we can all take to stay safe, but every so often the immunologist treats us to a more reflective side.

In a recent interview with PIX11 News, host Dan Mannarino asked Fauci to describe his "one regret about the handling of COVID-19," and the doctor was characteristically candid. Read on to learn Fauci's answer, plus three more regrets he's shared publicly. And for more Fauci news, check out Dr. Fauci Says This Is What's "Disturbing"About One New COVID Strain.

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He regrets a lack of coordinated response.

Woman refuses mask from doctor

Fauci knows that our nation's efforts to quell COVID have yielded both successes and failures. In a recent "lightning round" of questioning during his interview with PIX11 News, the host asked Fauci to name his top regret about the handling of COVID-19.

"That's tough…" Fauci replied. "I believe if we had a more coordinated approach, but I'm not sure that's anybody's fault," he began. "We're living in a very divisive society… and when you're in a divisive society, then all of a sudden public health matters become politicized. When they become politicized, you've got a problem."

While Fauci was careful not to point fingers at any one political affiliation, he gave this example: "If someone doesn't want to wear a mask because they think it's a political statement, that's a problem." And for more insights from Fauci, check out Dr. Fauci Just Said These 5 Very Scary Words About COVID-19.

He also felt he "should've been more vocal" about testing.

doctor in face shield and ppe giving older woman covid test

Though Fauci had endorsed mass testing early in his COVID response, he acknowledged that he could have tried harder to ensure his message was heard. "Deep down, perhaps I should've been much more vocal about saying, we really absolutely gotta do that," Fauci said in a November interview with STAT's senior infectious diseases reporter, Helen Branswell. "I said it, it went nowhere, and maybe I should have kept pushing the envelope on that."

"Community spread doesn't stop spontaneously unless you do something about it," Fauci added. "It is easier to stop when the level is relatively low. The only way that you can get at community spread is that you need to test people who are without symptoms," he explained.

He regretted casting doubt on the U.K.'s quick approval of vaccines.


When the U.K. was the first to approve Pfizer's COVID vaccine, Fauci suggested to the public that they had done so in haste. "The FDA in the United States, I think, everyone realizes globally is the gold standard of regulatory function," he said at the time.

Fauci later acknowledged that he misspoke, saying, "There really has been a misunderstanding and for that I'm sorry… I do have great faith in both the scientific community and the regulatory community at the U.K.," he told the BBC.

He continued his mea culpa by acknowledging his insult. "Our process is one that takes more time than it takes in the UK. And that's just the reality," he added. "I did not mean to imply any sloppiness even though it came out that way." And for more vaccine news, check out The FDA Just Ruled You Can't Do These 4 Things With the COVID Vaccines.

He acknowledged that early messaging about masks was flawed.


Perhaps more a reflection than a regret, Fauci has offered some thoughts on his flawed early messaging on masks.

According to a timeline published by Forbes, when the virus first reached the U.S. in Mar. 2020, Fauci told the public, "there's no reason to be walking around with a mask." He suggested that masks should be reserved for frontline healthcare workers and could cause "unintended consequences" if people touched their faces while adjusting them. By the end of that month, Fauci announced that he was engaged in "very active discussion" about whether to reverse that guidance. Not long after, in an Apr. 3, 2020 interview, he urged viewers to "wear some sort of facial covering" when out in public.

Later, in a Jul. 2020 interview with The Washington Post, he explained the reversal. "What happened as the weeks and months came by, two things became clear: one, that there wasn't a shortage of masks, we had plenty of masks and coverings that you could put on that's plain cloth…so that took care of that problem. Secondly, we fully realized that there are a lot of people who are asymptomatic who are spreading infection. So it became clear that we absolutely should be wearing masks consistently," he said.

Lauren Gray
Lauren Gray is a New York-based writer, editor, and consultant. Read more