I’ve never met Dr. Anthony Fauci, but I know him like an uncle. We both grew up in Dyker Heights, Brooklyn, some years apart; his parents ran the Fauci pharmacy on 83rd Street and 13th Avenue, and young Tony delivered prescriptions. It was a mostly working-class neighborhood with its share of tough guys and wiseguys, but there were also plenty of smart, conscientious Italian-American kids like Tony who studied their way out. When I hear his accent and his scratchy voice, I am transported to Sunday dinner with my 96-year-old mom’s innumerable relatives. (Her maiden name is Puglisi.) So I was predisposed to fond feelings for Fauci even before he and fellow coronavirus task force member Dr. Deborah Birx helped persuade President Trump this week that “getting back to normal” by mid-April would be disastrous—for both the country and his re-election chances. They’ve saved hundreds of thousands of lives.
Fauci, 79, has capped off a brilliant career of research and selfless public service with an impossible feat: managing Donald Trump. He has publicly disagreed with Trump several times without getting fired or shoved into the James Mattis–Rex Tillerson memorial doghouse. For this alone, Fauci deserves a Nobel. In this grim and frightening time, many others have earned our profound gratitude: The awe-inspiring doctors and nurses who are risking their own lives by treating thousands of Covid-19 patients in the chaotic, teeming MASH units that urban hospitals have become. The scientists working around the clock to develop a vaccine. (See Briefing.) The valiant workers in supermarkets, food services, Amazon warehouses, and delivery services keeping society functioning. The rest of us are making our own contribution to this war by staying home and enduring weeks or perhaps months of confinement. Let’s give ourselves a round of applause. Human beings can be awfully stupid, selfish, and shortsighted. But at our best, we are magnificent.