To most of us, today is known as Christmas Eve. In Washington, D.C. today is also Dr. Anthony S. Fauci Day. In honor of Dr. Fauci’s eightieth birthday, the Mayor of D.C. Muriel Bowser proclaimed December 24, 2020, as his day.

Dr. Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and frontman for the White House coronavirus task force, Fauci is a face of the scientific community during the coronavirus pandemic. He’s been active in giving interviews just about everywhere possible in the media, from podcasts and radio interviews to network and cable news shows to late-night talk shows, Fauci is not hard to find. He’s everywhere. One of the odd things that have resulted in this crazy year is that a government bureaucrat has been elevated to celebrity status. His fifteen minutes of fame shows no signs of slowing down as we go into 2021.

Why is this happening, though? Fauci seems like a nice enough man. As a face of the pandemic, he presents himself as a kind but stern grandfather, nagging us to wear a face mask and wash our hands while we keep six feet away from others. He attends meetings with the White House coronavirus task force and offers his expert opinions, having over forty years of experience in battling epidemics. Fauci has advised six presidents – Joe Biden will be the seventh president who receives his advice. But, at this stage in his career and his life, he’s a talker, not a doer. He isn’t in a lab developing a vaccine or a cure for COVID-19.

The scientists working diligently seven days a week and around the clock with Operation Warp Speed deserve their day of recognition. They are the ones who developed the vaccines that will now save millions of lives while Dr. Fauci takes a bow. Mayor Bowser acknowledges Fauci’s work on ending HIV/AIDS, which hasn’t happened even with his forty years of devotion to the virus. There are therapeutic drugs now but no vaccines. There is no cure for HIV/AIDS.

If Fauci is receiving honors for his work, it should be from HIV/AIDS research. He has been head of NIAID for 36 years. Fauci had been a major force behind a trial that had just proved that a long-acting injectable drug, cabotegravir, was highly effective at preventing women from contracting HIV. This conclusion was reported in November and is seen as very good news.

“I wanted the world to see that with all due respect to the extraordinary stress and strain that we’re going through with Covid, HIV is still a very important disease,” Fauci told the Guardian.

In an interview to mark his 80th birthday on 24 December and the HIV epidemic’s official 40-year mark in the coming year, Fauci reflected on the fight that, likely unknown to much of the public, has dominated exactly half his life.

“My career and my identity has really been defined by HIV,” said Fauci, who oversees a $1.8bn HIV budget at NIAID and is a leader of the global HIV research response. “Because I’ve been in a very unique position of now being one of the very, very few people who were there from the very first day of HIV.”

Fauci is a resident of Washington, D.C. and the mayor did what many mayors do for their city’s famous residents – she proclaimed a day to honor him. It’s his eightieth birthday but we know it’s happening his year because of the coronavirus. Fauci has often been hailed by Trump’s opponents, like Mayor Bowser, for pushing back on statements made by President Trump during the pandemic. We don’t see Dr. Birx, Fauci’s protege, and the White House coronavirus response coordinator, being given her own day by the mayor. She, too, lives in D.C. and has a long career focused on infectious diseases. Fauci is the celebrity this year. You’ll have to excuse me if I don’t consider him a hero during the coronavirus pandemic.

“Dr. Fauci has been a hero to our nation during this incredibly difficult year, working tirelessly to save lives and guide our nation’s response to and recovery from the pandemic,” said Mayor Bowser.

“We are incredibly proud to count him among the many D.C. residents who are sacrificing so much to keep our communities healthy and safe,” she said. “I issue this honor on behalf of all Washingtonians in gratitude and recognition of Dr. Fauci’s service to our nation and our city.”

He’s doing his job and giving guidance on mitigating the pandemic. That’s fine but it’s not hero-level work. Frankly, he’s been more hero-like in his efforts against HIV/AIDS. The health care workers and first responders transporting patients in ambulances are the heroes during the pandemic. They are risking their own health to care for those who are infected with the coronavirus.

Mayor Bowser said, “Dr. Fauci has been a shining light in dark times for the nation, promoting truth over fear and giving Americans hope in their government.” Fauci has tried to remain positive in his remarks but he often goes into doom and gloom mode in his warnings about the severity of outbreaks in hot spots. He’ll fit right in with the Biden administration, with whom he has agreed to join, and Biden’s schtick that winter is coming. The dark days of winter are coming. Biden has replaced optimistic talk that our best days are ahead of us with wallowing around in darkness and despair.

I will give Fauci credit for walking the walk besides talking the talk. He hasn’t been caught in violation of his own advice, except when he was seen maskless in the stands during a baseball game, sitting next to his wife and another person in an otherwise spector-free stadium. Fauci was there to throw out the game’s opening pitch, because he’s a celebrity, you know. Anyway, he didn’t travel during the Thanksgiving holiday and his grown daughters didn’t come home. He and his wife are doing the same for Christmas.

Happy birthday, Dr. Fauci. Merry Christmas. I do hope the new year brings more recognition for hard-working heroes across the country more than Washington, D.C. career bureaucrats.