Fauci isn’t a political appointee, so legally, he can’t be fired via presidential tweet. That doesn’t mean Trump won’t try to undermine or muffle him some other way after the election. But repercussions for Fauci would sever the last semblance of scientific legitimacy for this administration. The public will look elsewhere for guidance. On the other hand, it is likely that a Biden administration would swiftly undo this change.
If Fauci leaves, I hope it pushes the remaining public health experts on the coronavirus task force — Drs. Stephen Hahn, Brett Giroir, Jerome Adams, Deborah Birx and Robert Redfield — to pick up the mantle and be much louder and more public voices of sanity.
I don’t think the Trump administration realizes how much this unassuming and kind man embodies scientific excellence. But he’s also got backup. There is a legion of citizen scientists, public health experts and medical workers who aren’t giving up. Silencing one man, even a giant in the field of infectious diseases, won’t silence those in our field. For months, efforts like the Johns Hopkins COVID-19 Dashboard, the COVID Tracking Project and others have been providing the kinds of critical intelligence that should have been coming directly from the CDC. Over the last few months, our professional societies have started to become vocal advocates for evidence-based action, calling out this administration’s deceptive and false claims. Long-standing and revered scientific publications have come out against Trump for his lack of leadership and respect for science.