By Greg Bishop | The Center Square, June 7, 2021
(The Center Square) – Of more than 3,200 pages of emails released through the Freedom of Information Act to and from Dr. Anthony Fauci, there are none from the Pritzker administration.
More than a year ago, on Sunday, April 26, 2020, Gov. J.B. Pritzker talked about his relationship with Fauci, the head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.
“Personally, I think Dr. Fauci has been a very reliable source of information,” Pritzker said during that news conference over a year ago. “I have spoken with him directly, one-on-one a couple of times directly.”
But, a search of more than 3,200 pages of Fauci’s emails during the pandemic published by BuzzFeed last week, The Center Square reporters didn’t find any communication from the Pritzker administration with Fauci or staff.
There are emails forwarded to Fauci by his staff from Chicago’s public health director asking about coordination with federal officials in the early weeks of the pandemic.
“How will the necessary public health workforce expansion (e.g. for wide-scale case investigation, contact tracing, linkage to care, community testing, and vaccination) be supported at the federal level?” an April 22, 2020 email from Allison Arwady to Patricia Conrad that was forwarded to Fauci.
Arwady had a series of questions.
“Given the need to quickly expand our workforce and plan ahead, it would be very helpful to get a sense of: a. How much funding/support might be available, and how that will be determined b. Whether funding might come through HHS/CDC (our preferred mechanism), FEMA, or another mechanism c. Will support be available in weeks or months … and for how long-we are strongly advocating for 5 years, similar to what was done for Ebola,” the email says. “I deeply appreciate Dr. Fauci taking the time to meet with us directly and hear our concerns.”
Fauci forwarded a response to then-CDC Director Dr. Robert Redfield and copied Awardy.
“This question evolved from a teleconference that I had 2 nights ago with people ‘in the trenches,'” Fauci said. “I can discuss this with you today at the Task Force meeting.”
Pritzker said more than a year ago Fauci was a “very reliable source of information.”
“I rely on the guidance I hear from him,” Pritzker said then.
Pritzker’s office didn’t return a message seeking comment Monday about whether the administration still has confidence in the information he got from Fauci.
Other emails released through public records requests have some elected officials in Illinois critical of guidance they say seems tainted by feelings, not science.
U.S. Rep. Rodney Davis, R-Taylorville, Friday said throughout the pandemic, he also relied on guidance from Fauci. But that’s changed.
“When you look at some of the emails, you look at some of the recommendations, right now they clearly don’t follow science and data that we know about this disease now,” Davis told WMAY. “They follow feelings, they follow politics and we’ve got to change that in Washington and frankly all levels of government.”
In one email dated Feb. 5, 2020, Fauci responds to a question from a sender asking about whether to mask when traveling to a redacted location.
“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,” Fauci wrote. “The typical mask you buy in the drug store is not really effective in keeping out virus, which is small enough to pass through the material. It might, however, provide some slight benefit in keep out gross droplets if someone coughs or sneezes on you. I do not recommend that you wear a mask, particularly since you are going to a vey low risk location.”
Davis also said the emails indicate early on stories about a possible lab leak were throttled by social media companies, raising further concerns about the role of politics in decisions around managing the pandemic.
In one email Fauci forwarded to a staffer on Feb. 22, 2020, saying “Please handle,” someone raised concern of a “possibility that the virus was released from a lab in wuhan, the biotech area of china.”
In another email, dated April 19, 2020, Fauci responds to Peter Daszak, “Many thanks for your kind note.”
Daszak, the president of EcoHealth Alliance whose nonprofit has funded coronavirus research in China, sent Fauci a note the day before thanking him “for publicly standing up and stating that the scientific evidence supports a natural origin for COVID-19 from a bat-to-human spillover, not a lab release from the Wuhan Institute of Virology.”
Parts of that email are redacted.
“From my perspective, your comments are brave, and coming from your trusted voice, will help dispel the myths being spun around the virus’ origins,” Daszak said.