Health and Wellness

5 a.m. wake ups and 1,000 emails: Inside a typical day for White House Advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, DC on April 29, 2020.
Mandel Ngan | AFP | Getty Images

It's been 56 days since the World Health Organization declared Covid-19 a pandemic on March 11. And while some states have begun to lift various pandemic-related restrictions, things haven't slowed down one bit for 79-year-old White House advisor and immunologist Anthony Fauci. 

"I have to wake up in the morning and literally, without being facetious, ask my wife, 'What day is it?'" Fauci told National Geographic for a story published Monday.

Fauci, who is the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, became the face of America's Covid-19 response, often standing alongside President Donald Trump at press briefings.

In the early days of the pandemic, Fauci admitted he was "foolish" and tried to get away with "almost no sleep" so he could work 20 hour days fighting the virus.

He says he would typically only sleep about three hours a night.

"I did that for a few weeks, and it almost killed me. It really wore me down badly," Fauci told National Geographic

Fauci credited his wife of 35 years, Christine Grady, a nurse bioethicist, for reminding him to get proper rest and to drink water. (Grady spoke to CNBC Make It in April about her push to get her husband to take care of himself during the pandemic.)

Director of the National Institute of Allergy & Infectious Diseases at the National Institute of Health Anthony Fauci and his wife Christine Grady arrive at the White House for a state dinner October 18, 2016 in Washington, DC.
(Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

"Thank goodness I have a very intelligent and clinically skilled wife who turned things around and said, 'You got to remember to eat, and you've got to remember to sleep,'" Fauci told National Geographic.

However, Fauci said his days are still "impossible," though he doesn't think he is going to "drop dead" from his schedule anytime soon.

Here's what Fauci told National Geographic a typical day looks like for him amid the pandemic:

"I get up around five o'clock in the morning, and I usually wind up running downstairs, getting a quick breakfast, and looking at a thousand emails—literally a thousand," he said. 

Then Fauci heads to his office at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) headquarters in Bethesda, Maryland. (Since 1984, Fauci has lead its infectious disease division, handling outbreaks and pandemics including HIV, SARS, MERS and Ebola.)

There he works with his team on trying to a develop a Covid-19 vaccine, while also handling administrative work for the $6 billion institution. 

Typically, he stays there until around 1 p.m. and then heads to the White House for multiple meetings, he said.

"First, I meet with the doctor group—myself, coronavirus response coordinator Debbie Birx, director Bob Redfield from the CDC, commissioner Steve Hahn from FDA, and others," he told National Geographic.

Afterward, they all go into a task force meeting run by Vice President Mike Pence, which usually lasts for about an hour and a half.

Then the team "summarizes" their pre-brief with Pence to then go brief President Donald Trump before his daily press conference, Fauci said.

(Though Trump ended his daily briefings last week, he told The New York Post on Monday that the briefings will return soon, but will only be once or twice a week.) 

After Fauci briefs Trump, he says he either heads home or goes back the office and will work until "the wee hours of the morning."

"The whole day is punctuated by everybody needing to talk to you: every governor in the states, every congressional leader, every leader in the White House. It's constant conference calls. It's an almost impossible situation—and that's seven days a week," Fauci said.

On top that, Fauci said he does multiple TV and radio interviews throughout the day, which makes his schedule turn into "kind of a surrealistic state."

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