The recent release of thousands of Dr. Anthony Fauci’s emails from the spring of 2020 revealed a lot about the early days of the pandemic. But it was also a fascinating glimpse into the White House chief medical advisor’s busy job.
The sheer number of emails that Fauci receives and responds to in a day is a feat. In an email to a friend in late March 2020, Fauci wrote that he was getting more than 2,000 emails a day.
And Fauci feels compelled to read and respond to each of those emails, making it one of the more time-consuming aspects of his job as director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease, he told The Wall Street Journal’s Joanna Stern at the paper’s Tech Health Event Wednesday.
“I am the type of person, I get asked a lot of questions that are medical questions [from] people who need help,” Fauci, 80, said. “I’ve never been able to lose that feeling of responsibility of when people reach out to you and ask for help that you respond to them. So, I do that, [and] that takes a lot of time.”
But even with his dedication, he may never be an inbox zero person. With his role as a medical professional and in the middle of a pandemic, Fauci said he can’t just delete his emails.
“A lot of the emails are people that really do need to get some feedback from you,” Fauci said.
“People tell me that, ‘why don’t you just wipe the screen clean?'” he said. “You can’t do that. You just can’t.”
Many of the emails, which were obtained by BuzzFeed News and other media outlets through the Freedom of Information Act, included questions from other medical professionals and laypeople who were offering to help Fauci or asking questions about the coronavirus.
On many occasions Fauci would respond with brief messages such as, “Thank you for your note. AS Fauci,” or forward the emails to his associates at the National Institutes of Health asking them to respond on his behalf.
“I spend a lot of time doing emails and sometimes late into the night,” Fauci said at The Wall Street Journal’s Tech Health Event. Fauci occasionally responds to emails into the early morning, at around 1 or 2 a.m. (In the early days of the pandemic, Fauci said he was only sleeping four hours each night.)
Fauci sends most of his emails from his desktop computer, or “my iPhone when I’m moving around,” he said.
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