After playing what I consider viral dodgeball for 26 months, I tested positive for Covid-19 this Sunday.
This is remarkable only for my family and my employer. But it’s now part of a larger pattern of the pandemic in America.
People like me get infected despite being vaccinated and boosted to some degree. In my case I received two vaccines and two booster shots – all of them. My last booster shot was on May 9th.
13 days later I tested positive.
Of course, my positive test plunged me into isolation. A whole week of work orders – and there were quite a few – disappeared. My podcast, The Takeout, has produced an original show every week throughout its history (since January 2017). We scrubbed the personal show we had planned and Dr. Anthony Fauci, President Biden’s chief medical adviser.
“You are the embodiment of that,” Dr. Fauci on Thursday, referring to rising infection rates — topping 100,000 cases a week nationwide for the first time since February. “This is a highly transmissible virus. And it is very likely that if you had not been vaccinated and double-vaccinated, you would have had a much more serious result than you have now. And you and I, I think – very unlikely, Major, we would speak now.”
Fauci could see me via Zoom. I looked and sounded good enough for an interview. My symptoms were fatigue, headache, low-grade fever, and night sweats. Fatigue was my first, most noticeable symptom. I felt it on Saturday afternoon while trying to play golf. I was out of breath in a completely unfamiliar way. It’s a common symptom, Fauci told me.
My symptoms were manageable. I’ve had worse. I had pneumonia and double pneumonia and both were much worse.
And yet, even with four doses of vaccine in my system, Covid still felt like a real disease. On Fauci’s point, I thought about how much worse things would have been if I hadn’t been vaccinated and boosted.
Fauci asked me if I had sought antiviral therapy. My GP prescribed. I started a five day regimen on Tuesday evening and was feeling noticeably better on Wednesday morning.
That’s the right course of action, Fauci told me, and he said the government is also trying to get the general public and doctors treating SARS-Co-V-2 patients to start paxlovid as soon as possible after a positive take test.
Fauci praised Paxlovid as “an antiviral drug that has a very good ability of almost 90% to keep people from being hospitalized and getting serious illnesses.”
Coincidentally, the federal government increased the availability of Paxlovid that day.
“We are doubling the number of locations where packs of this are available from 20,000 to 40,000. Just today we announced the opening of the first of the federally supported testing and treatment sites in Rhode Island, soon to be followed by Minnesota, New York and other locations.”
Three Paxlovid tablets, twice a day gave me no side effects other than a faint metallic taste.
“It blocks the replication of the virus,” Fauci said. “Essentially, when you block the replication of the virus, you disrupt the kind of effects you’re experiencing — the chills, the tiredness, the headaches, the feeling like you’ve been very under the weather.”
Most US Covid cases (at least 58%) are now associated with the BA 22.214.171.124 variant of SARS-Co-V-2. This mutation, Fauci said, echoing my own doctor, is more like an upper respiratory tract virus. Most of the protection offered by vaccines and boosters is related to lower respiratory tract diseases.
“The only thing that’s proven is protection against systemic disease, especially lung disease,” Fauci said. “However, the upper airways have become a vulnerable target.”
Because of this, Fauci reiterated the CDC’s current advice on wearing masks in places where “you have an increase in cases,” meaning donning them in large groups indoors.
I asked Fauci if the country was experiencing its fifth wave of Covid.
“We certainly have a number of cases that have been increasing,” Fauci said, noting that the US is still a long way from its staggering peak of 900,000 cases per day, along with tens of thousands of hospitalizations and 3,000 deaths. “The daily average is now over 100,000 a day. Shall we call this a wave? I’m not so sure. I think it’s a bit semantic. I think we should say that we are seeing an increase in infections. That’s the disillusionment. News.”
But Fauci also pointed to promising signs.
“The somewhat encouraging news is that parts of the country that used to have gains are beginning to stabilize and decline. This is New York City in particular. This is the Chicago area. This is the Washington, DC area.”
According to available data, an unvaccinated person is 68 times more likely to die from Covid than a vaccinated person.
“If you look at the hospitalizations for the unvaccinated versus the hospitalizations and deaths for the vaccinated and boosted, the curves are separated by a large amount,” Fauci said.
“You are several times more likely to get into trouble if you are unvaccinated than if you are vaccinated.”
I reminded Fauci that I was boosted on May 9th (my second) and within two weeks I was still testing positive.
“Vaccines aren’t necessarily designed to … give you sterilized immunity or prevent even the slightest bit of infection,” Fauci said. “That is the point. The main purpose is to prevent you from getting sick. Preventing you from being in hospital Given that you have had some significant symptoms despite being vaccinated, it is conceivable that if you had not been vaccinated you might have developed serious problems.”
Fauci addressed the harsh political climate when I asked him if it was wise, as some have suggested, for insurers to increase premiums for those who choose not to have Covid vaccinations, similar to what is already being done with premiums for smokers.
“I prefer it,” Fauci said, “because through no fault of their own, the people who inappropriately and falsely say I’m encroaching on someone’s liberty are going to jump all over it and that’s just going to give them a few legs for something that.” is a distraction from what we really want, which is to get people vaccinated.”
With that in mind, I asked Fauci if he would remain in the White House post if Republicans took control of Congress in the midterm elections. Several Republicans have suggested investigating Fauci’s actions during the pandemic.
“I don’t know,” Fauci said. “I haven’t thought about that yet. Right now my focus is on getting us through this climb that we are in right now. That’s what I worry about when I go out at night. I’m not worried about what I’m going to do six months from now.”
I asked if he feared a Republican investigation or requests for documents.
“Not at all,” Fauci said. I have nothing to hide There is nothing to worry about. I’m an open book.”
Executive Producer: Arden Farhi
Producers: Jamie Benson, Jacob Rosen, Sara Cook and Eleanor Watson