The US’ pre-eminent Covid-19 adviser discussed the claim that the virus escaped from a Chinese laboratory in the early days of the pandemic.
Dr Fauci was told the virus, close up, had “unusual features”.
The claim Covid came from a lab was widely dismissed at the time but recently new life has been breathed into the theory, with Dr Fauci himself saying he is “not convinced” Covid is all natural.
The emails also reveal that Dr Fauci suggested masks should only be donned by those people who were infected while everyone from celebrities to Facebook chief executive officer Mark Zuckerberg contacted him to seek guidance or provide help.
He also found his now cemented celebrity status “not pleasant” with one notable exception.
The three news organisations managed to get their hands on around 4000 pages of emails sent by Dr Fauci between January and June 2020, although many were redacted because of their sensitive contents.
“This is White House in full overdrive and I am in the middle of it,” he wrote on February 2, 2020. Dr Fauci said it was reminiscent of the time when anthrax-laced packages were being sent to politicians.
February 2 was the day that the first coronavirus death was reported outside of China, in the Philippines, and the US had just reported its 10th case. Right now, that total is at 3.3 million with 600,000 deaths.
Just two days later, Dr Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told a journalist he was “really tired” and didn’t have “much sleep these days”.
He told another journo: “Feels like my internship and first year residency when I was on every other night and every other weekend, but actually never left the hospital because the patients were so sick.”
Fauci knew of lab leak theory early on
The emails reveal the theory that Covid did not emerge from a Wuhan wet market but from the Wuhan Institute of Virology emerged early in the pandemic.
In February 2020, Dr Fauci received a message from scientist Kristan Andersen which stated that he should “look really closely at all the sequences to see that some of the features (potentially) look engineered”.
Dr Andersen said there were “unusual features” that made up a “really small part” of the genome that might not be noticed as otherwise the virus looks “totally normal”.
“I should mention that after discussions earlier today, Eddie, Bob, Mike, and myself all find the genome inconsistent with expectations from evolutionary theory,” the expert added.
“But we have to look at this much more closely and there are still further analyses to be done, so those opinions could still change.”
A later email from Dr Fauci to a senior staff member in his team contained a 2015 research paper looking at how coronaviruses could be engineered to be more transmissible and deadly.
“Hugh, it is essential that we speak this AM … Read this paper …” he wrote.
However, later the team led by Dr Andersen published a paper in journal Nature Medicine where they said it was unlikely the virus has escaped from a lab.
On April 16, Francis Collings, the director of the US’ National Institute of Health, emailed Dr Fauci saying “conspiracy gains momentum” in relation to the lab leak hypotheses. Buzzfeed has reported that Dr Fauci’s response to this was entirely blacked out by the time it received the emails.
Fauci ‘not convinced’ Covid all natural
Dr Fauci has more recently said he is “not convinced” Covid developed of its own accord.
Speaking at the United Facts of America festival in early May, Dr Fauci was asked if Covid-19 had occurred naturally.
“No actually. I am not convinced about that,” the director of the National Institute of Allergies and Infectious Diseases said.
“I think we should continue to investigate what went on in China until we continue to find out to the best of our ability what happened.”
He added: “Certainly, the people who investigated it say it likely was the emergence from an animal reservoir that then infected individuals, but it could have been something else, and we need to find that out.”
Fauci’s reply to celebs and strangers
Actor Morgan Child, who had worked with him on HIV/AIDS awareness and education campaigns, suggested to Dr Fauci she use her Twitter account to pass on a message to her followers from the doctor.
He asked if she would tweet: “The American public should not be frightened, but should be prepared to mitigate an outbreak in this country by measures including social distancing, teleworking, temporary closure of schools, etc.”
Facebook’s’ Mr Zuckerberg emailed Dr Fauci about plans for a coronavirus “information hub” on the website and asked for his guidance on what information that should contain.
So patient was Dr Fauci, the emails show that despite his workload, he was happy at times to give one-on-one advice to complete strangers.
Mask or no mask
When asked by someone if they should wear a mask to the airport, Dr Fauci’s early advice was no, unless you thought you might be harbouring the virus.
“Masks are really for infected people to prevent them from spreading infection to people who are not infected rather than protecting uninfected people from acquiring infection,” he wrote.
“The typical mask you buy in the drugstore is not really effective in keeping out virus, which is small enough to pass through the material. It might, however, provide some slight benefit (to) keep out gross droplets if someone coughs or sneezes on you.”
Throughout the emails, Dr Fauci is courteous but reacts firmly when it’s suggested he might have been muzzled by the Trump White House.
“I genuflect to no one but science and always, always speak my mind when it comes to public health,” he wrote in one reply.
Shunned celebrity status, with one exception
He also received emails from people none too impressed by his advice, expertise or guidance.
“All is well despite some crazy people in this world,” he told a Chinese health official who expressed concern that he was being attacked.
The email shows he was somewhat reluctant by the new-found fame he garnered, calling it “not at all pleasant.”
But he was indeed pleasantly surprised when actor Brad Pitt played him on a Saturday Night Live skit.
“One reviewer of the SNL show said that Pitt looked ‘exactly like me’. That statement made my year,” Fauci wrote in one email.