Speaking to America’s Doctor // Dr. Anthony Fauci

WASHINGTON, DC - APRIL 07: Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, listens to U.S. President Donald Trump speak to reporters following a meeting of the coronavirus task force in the Brady Press Briefing Room at the White House on April 7, 2020 in Washington, DC. The president today removed the independent chairman of a committee tasked with overseeing the roll out of the $2 trillion coronavirus bailout package. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
Despite his innumerable media appearances during this pandemic, the nation’s top infectious disease specialist, Dr. Anthony Fauci, isn’t easy to reach. This has been especially true in the weeks following his recent vocal cord surgery, which limited his ability to give interviews. His staffers said that until the doctor’s voice is healed, he will be keeping interviews to a bare minimum, giving consideration to only the most essential requests. The interview I had been promised would have to wait.

I was therefore more than pleasantly surprised a few days ago to receive a call from someone at the Department of Health and Human Services, who informed me that the HHS was looking to communicate with the Orthodox Jewish community about the challenges we face because of the epidemic, especially as we head into another holiday season.
Would Ami consider doing an interview with Dr. Fauci, to be published in our Rosh Hashanah issue? The answer was yes.

For safety reasons, the 79-year-old physician avoids in-person encounters to the greatest extent possible, and our interview took place remotely.

Dr. Fauci, who has served as an advisor to the past six presidents, has been awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the National Medal of Science. Yet despite his accomplishments, and a medical career spanning more than 50 years, the Brooklyn-born doctor seemed eager to learn something new during the interview and asked me questions about our holiday. He expressed great curiosity about the chag of Sukkos and kept apologizing for not being more familiar with it.

Just how close were folks expected to get to one another? he asked with sincerity.
Would people be crowded together in confined areas? Would there be close physical contact? And would it be permissible to modify a sukkah in a way that would facilitate social distancing?

When I informed him that expanding the size of a sukkah is technically permissible, he recommended that we build larger sukkahs this year.

Dr. Fauci exhibited considerable interest in expanding his horizons, and at the same time, he certainly didn’t shy away from expanding our own horizons in his area of expertise. As long as he wasn’t being grilled on his personal dealings with President Trump, Dr. Fauci was ready to advise us.

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