Dr. Anthony Fauci recently announced he will be stepping down from all government positions, including his position as chief medical advisor to President Joe Biden. As the most notable public health official leading America’s response to COVID for the past two and a half years, Fauci has repeatedly declared, “I represent science.”
My family abided by the severe restrictions Fauci demanded of Americans throughout the pandemic. During that time, my parents lost their son — and I lost my brother — to a non-Covid illness. The devastating consequences of the government-mandated restrictions made his death that much more awful and, in my opinion, more preventable. A little more humility, along with an honest acknowledgement of the steep downsides of the policies he championed, would be a welcome change before Fauci leaves office.
When the country shut down in March 2020, at Fauci’s recommendation, my brother and I were most concerned about protecting our elderly parents. My father suffers from Parkinson’s disease, and this comorbidity renders him especially vulnerable if he contracts the virus.
We diligently wore masks, and I began purchasing them even when Fauci and other public health officials initially discouraged the practice. When mask guidance was reversed in April 2020, my family gladly complied. My objections, detailed publicly, centered not on the wisdom of mask-wearing but on the tardiness of the medical experts to reach their updated conclusion.
My family also dutifully “socially distanced.” My brother, who lived two hours away from my parents, no longer entered their house for fear of infecting them through asymptomatic spread. Prior to the pandemic, he visited almost every weekend.
As it turned out, my brother, an able-bodied man in his late 40s, was far more vulnerable during the pandemic than we could have ever imagined. He had various pre-existing health issues, and they were exacerbated by his reaction to the lockdowns.
An interpreter by profession, my brother used to meet with multiple clients at multiple venues each day. Those interactions ended when the country shut down. The emotional support he had derived from the regular visits to our parents also ceased. He had quit smoking, a major risk factor for heart disease, just before the pandemic. In isolation, though, he returned to the habit.
In early September 2020, he had a heart attack, which led to admittance to intensive care units at a couple of hospitals in the San Francisco Bay Area. After two short weeks, he passed away.
My family did not get to see him one last time to bid farewell. Washington Hospital in Fremont, where he died, informed me that no visitors were allowed — unless the patient was on their death bed, breathing their last breaths. This meant that patients like my brother, who passed away unexpectedly in the middle of the night, died alone or in the company of medical personnel.
While at St. Rose Hospital in Hayward, a prior ICU where my brother was admitted, he told me he felt like he was “being tortured” by the treatment provided. After his death, I called nearly every one of his doctors at both hospitals to find out what had transpired. Each of them tried to provide answers, except for one doctor at St. Rose, who reacted with hostility and refused further discussion after a few minutes. Now, nearly two years after my brother’s death, questions about why he felt “tortured” remain unanswered.
My brother’s funeral, limited to 20 attendees, featured a slew of grey-haired relatives older than he. My mother, stricken with grief, repeatedly demanded an answer from the heavens for why her son was taken away. As I attended to her, my father sat alone in a wheelchair in front of my brother’s casket.
Multiple factors contributed to my brother’s untimely death, including lifestyle choices, illnesses, and circumstances that existed long before the pandemic. Like others suffering from sudden loss, my parents and I have repeatedly asked ourselves what more we could have done while he was still alive.
With that said, I believe my brother’s chances of surviving would have been higher had strident COVID restrictions not existed. I could have showed up in-person at the hospital by his bedside, tracked down his doctors, demanded any necessary improvements to his care, and advocated on his behalf when he was gravely ill. At the very least, my parents and I could have seen him before he died.
Sadly, my family’s tragedy is not ours alone. The lockdowns and other COVID restrictions — recommended by Fauci and implemented by federal, state, and local governments — have exacted a gargantuan price on Americans.
Americans’ health deteriorated due to anxiety, depression, weight gain, a sense of isolation, and missed doctor’s visits or medical screenings. The death rate, in general, among younger adults, such as my brother, surged, with a majority of the deceased suffering from non-COVID causes. Meanwhile, my brother was among many who died of heart disease since the virus reached American shores. In 2020, the year the lockdowns began, the mortality rate for this illness rose by 4.3 percent, with recorded deaths clocking in at the highest number in nearly 20 years.
Today, Fauci has become a lightning rod, but he seems as sure of himself as ever and has claimed, “I can defend everything I’ve done.” For a scientist wielding supposedly nonpartisan titles, he has resorted to waging highly partisan attacks.
Amid the heated back and forth, no one can undo my family’s tragedy or the tragedies of so many other families, but officials like Fauci, who engineered this country’s COVID policies, can still make an attempt at humility and critical self-assessment. It would be good for science.
Ying Ma is the author of Chinese Girl in the Ghetto.
The views expressed in this piece are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The Daily Wire.