Opinion: What Fauci's emails reveal -- and what they don't

5 min read
Megan Ranney writes the 3,234 pages of Dr. Anthony Fauci's emails, released through a FOIA request this week, provide a rare inside look at our country's scientific enterprise and its intersection with the rest of our federal government.
Megan Ranney , MD, MPH, is an associate professor of emergency medicine; co-founder of GetUsPPE; and a CNN medical analyst. The opinions expressed in this commentary are her own. View more opinion on CNN.

(CNN) This week, 3,234 pages of emails from Dr. Anthony Fauci, the chief medical adviser to the President, were released through a Freedom Of Information Act request. I'm still trying to digest them all, as I expect many people are.

At times, it feels like reading someone's diary, albeit a post-modernist, redacted diary with a non-linear timeline. At other times, it feels like looking at the celebrity photos on the front pages of People magazine: "He felt that way, too?!"

The emails may not always be exciting, but they're real. There is no hagiography here. And we're lucky to get this inside view of how our country's scientific enterprise -- and its intersection with the rest of our federal government -- figured out what Covid-19 was, how it spread, how to stop it and how to communicate about it.

For many of us, it's fascinating to follow how scientific knowledge accumulated, evolved and was presented to the public. Some who read these emails will doubtlessly find "errors" -- things that have since those early days been proven false -- but I would caution everyone, including Fauci's detractors currently scouring them for missteps, to remember that these are errors only in hindsight; at the time, no one knew what was the truth.

Like all of us, Fauci thought early on that the disease spread primarily through droplets from symptomatic individuals. He, like the rest of us in science, took a month or so to understand that asymptomatic and pre-symptomatic spread was another primary means of transmission, that the disease spread through aerosols as well as droplets and that masks are essential regardless of whether someone has symptoms.

Fauci's emails reveal that by early April he was responding to a…
Opinion by Megan Ranney
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