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Dr. Anthony Fauci, face of U.S. COVID-19 pandemic response, to retire in December

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation's top infectious disease expert who became a household name — and the subject of partisan attacks — during the COVID-19 pandemic, announced Monday he will depart the federal government in December after more than five decades of service.

Fauci spoke out about efforts to control COVID-19 spread despite threats, Trump rifts

Anthony Fauci speaks about the Omicron coronavirus variant during a press briefing at the White House on Dec. 1, 2021. (Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)

Dr. Anthony Fauci, his nation's top infectious disease expert who became a household name — and the subject of partisan attacks — during the COVID-19 pandemic, announced Monday he will depart the U.S. federal government in December after more than five decades of service.

Fauci, who serves as President Joe Biden's chief medical adviser, has been the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and chief of the NIAID Laboratory of Immunoregulation. He was a leader in the federal response to HIV/AIDS and other infectious diseases even before the coronavirus hit.

"I will be leaving these positions in December of this year to pursue the next chapter of my career," Fauci, 81, said in a statement, calling those roles "the honour of a lifetime."

Fauci became the face of the government response to COVID-19 as it hit in early 2020, with frequent appearances on television news and at daily press conferences with White House officials, including then-President Donald Trump. But as the pandemic deepened, Fauci fell out of favour with Trump and his officials when his urgings of continued public caution clashed with the former president's desire to return to normalcy and to promote unproven therapies for the virus.

Fauci found himself marginalized by the Trump administration, increasingly kept out of major decisions about the federal response, but he continued to speak out publicly in media interviews, advocating physical distancing and face coverings in public settings before the rollout of the COVID-19 vaccines.

He was also the subject of political attacks and death threats and was granted a security detail for his protection.

When Biden won the White House, he asked Fauci to stay on in his administration in an elevated capacity. The president praised Fauci in a statement, saying, "Whether you've met him personally or not, he has touched all Americans' lives with his work. I extend my deepest thanks for his public service. The United States of America is stronger, more resilient, and healthier because of him."

Fauci said despite retiring from federal service he planned to continue working. "I want to use what I have learned as NIAID director to continue to advance science and public health and to inspire and mentor the next generation of scientific leaders as they help prepare the world to face future infectious disease threats," he said.

LISTEN | Anthony Fauci talks to CBC's The Current on lessons learned:

We talk to Dr. Anthony Fauci about the COVID-19 pandemic, the lessons he learned from the fight against HIV/AIDS, and what the world needs to do to get rising monkeypox cases under control.

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