Leading infectious disease expert of the US Anthony Fauci speaks at a press conference at the White House on January 21 AFP
US leading infectious disease expert Anthony Fauci speaks at a press conference at the White House on January 21. Photo: AFP

Dr. Anthony Fauci is the nation’s highest paid federal employee raking in an annual salary of $417,608 in 2019, the latest year federal salary data is available.

The nation’s top infectious disease expert, 80, is not only the highest paid doctor in the federal government but the highest paid employee out of four million federal staffers.

In the pandemic Fauci became the face of the White House Coronavirus Task Force and according to salary data, made more than his peers in 2019.

Vice President Mike Pence, who outranks Fauci in authority, made $235,100 salary in 2019, meanwhile Dr. Deborah Birx earned $305,972 in 2019, according to dailymail.co.uk.

Dr. Anthony Fauci is the nation’s highest paid federal employee raking in $417,608 in 2019, the latest year federal salary data is available
Dr. Anthony Fauci is the nation’s highest paid federal employee raking in $417,608 in 2019, the latest year federal salary data is available. Photo: AP

Mr. Fauci's salary is even higher than US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi ($ 223,500 / year); Chief Justice of the US Supreme Court John Roberts ($ 270,700) and senators in the House and Senate ($ 174,000). The four-star army generals have a salary of USD 268,000 but still lower than Mr. Fauci.

Recent surveys show that Mr. Fauci is the most trusted public figure in the US for information related to the Covid-19 pandemic, which has so far killed more than 425,000 Americans.

Fauci's salary even surpassed the $400,000 pay of the president. Donald Trump did not accept the presidential salary and instead wrote checks equal to a quarter of his salary each quarter to various government agencies.

The salary data was collected by OpenTheBooks.com via Freedom of Information Act requests, which included federal employees whose salaries are funded by taxpayers.

On the list the highest paid federal government employees are medical and dental officers.

Dr. Fauci became the early face of the White House Coronavirus Task Force, appearing daily, often in a live broadcast, to update the nation on the emerging COVID-19 disease. In March 2020, he convinced President Donald Trump on the 15-day lockdown policy to try and flatten the curve, and reportedly advocated on March 29, 2020, for extending the policy beyond its initial 15 days.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) scientist Dr. Stephen Lindstrom in charge of overseeing the CDC COVID-19 testing system, a system whose early roll-out failure set the U.S. testing system back several crucial weeks, made $108,747 in basic pay, an additional $23,533 in adjusted pay, and received an “award” of $750 in 2019.

The 80-year-old Dr. Fauci holds a medical degree from Cornell University and began his 53-year career at NIH in 1968. He assumed his NIAID Director position in 1984 and has advised every president since President Ronald Reagan, though he serves directly under the NIH Director Francis Collins. Known as the nation’s top infectious disease expert, he qualifies for a full federal pension and social security under pre 1984 federal pension reform rules.

Who is Dr Anthony Fauci, the US’s trusted voice on coronavirus?

Dr Fauci is seen as a trustworthy voice, often correcting US President Donald Trump on the coronavirus crisis.

Early life

Fauci was born in Brooklyn, New York, on Christmas Eve, 1940, into an Italian-American family. President George W Bush, who, in 2008, awarded Fauci the Presidential Medal of Freedom, noted that even as a boy he showed an independent streak: In a neighbourhood full of Brooklyn Dodgers fans, Fauci rooted for the Yankees.

Fauci became head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases in 1984, when the nation was in the throes of the AIDS crisis. He has recalled the huge frustration of caring for dying patients in the National Institutes of Health’s (NIH) hospital with nothing to offer.

After hours, he would chat with then-Surgeon General C Everett Koop about what scientists were learning about AIDS, influencing Koop’s famous 1986 report educating Americans about the disease.

NIH National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Director Anthony Fauci speaks during a news conference in the Rose Garden of the White House [File: Al Drago/Reuters]

In 1990, when AIDS activists swarmed the NIH to protest what they saw as government indifference, Fauci brought them to the table. Fast forward, and he helped to shape Trump’s initiative to end HIV in the US.

Although he’s spent his career in government, Fauci does not seem to have lost the human touch – and that may be part of the key to his success as a communicator.

During the 2014 Ebola outbreak, many Americans panicked when a US nurse was infected by a patient she was caring for, a traveller from West Africa. Ebola can cause deadly bleeding.

Fauci confronted those fears by setting a personal example. When the NIH hospital released that nurse, not only did he say she was not contagious, he gave her a hug before TV cameras to prove he was not worried.

Correcting Trump

Fast-forward six years, and Fauci is again at the forefront of scientists’ efforts to dispel misinformation and explain the coronavirus pandemic, even when it means being at odds with the president.

Fauci uses a metaphor from one of the fastest-moving sports to describe his strategy on the outbreak. “You skate not to where the puck is, but to where the puck is going to be,” he told a House committee.

He has simultaneously advocated containment to try to keep the virus from spreading, mitigation to check its damage once it gets loose in a community, immediate efforts to increase testing, and short-term and long-term science to develop treatments and vaccines. He is hoping a dynamic response will put the nation where the puck ends up going.

“It’s unpredictable,” he said. “Testing now is not going to tell you how many cases you’re going to have. What will tell you … will be how you respond to it with containment and mitigation.”

Fauci told CNN that the pandemic could ultimately kill between 100,000 and 200,000 people in the US should mitigation be unsuccessful. Those projections have since been lowered to under 100,000.

Serving a president who initially dismissed coronavirus by comparing it to seasonal flu, Fauci has been even-handed in public. He has won the respect of Democratic and Republican legislators, along with Trump administration officials.

Almost in a matter-of-fact fashion, Fauci acknowledged to Congress earlier this month that the government system was not designed for mass testing of potential infections. “It is a failing, let’s admit it,” he told legislators.

When asked about Trump’s comments on an anti-malaria drug that he said could be a “game-changer” in the race to find a coronavirus treatment, Fauci, standing next to the president, said there was not scientific data to support the use of the drug.

“The answer is, ‘no’,”‘ Fauci told a reporter when asked if he found the drug promising.

“The evidence you’re talking about … is anecdotal evidence,” he added.

“I served six presidents and I have never done anything other than tell the exact scientific evidence and made policy recommendations based on the science and the evidence,” he had previously told a House committee earlier this month.

Fauci’s candour has not stopped Trump from praising him. “Tony has been doing a tremendous job working long, long hours,” earlier this month, as rumours swirled that there was a division between Fauci and the White House.

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