During a virtual children’s chapel service in August, a Maryland congregation welcomed a special guest who answered young listeners’ questions about the COVID-19 pandemic. Dr. Anthony Fauci, America’s leading infectious disease specialist, appeared via video on August 13 to speak with Pastor Connie Miller at St. Luke Lutheran Church in Silver Spring.
The church, which also has a Christian Day School, is located just seven miles from the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland, where Fauci serves as director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. According to an article on LivingLutheran.org, the chapel theme that week was heroes, and Fauci’s kid-friendly video, which aired on Facebook Live, now has more than 16,000 views.
Fauci Shares Honest Information and Love
Pastor Miller launched online chapel services because children “were feeling the same type of loneliness and isolation as the adults” in the congregation. Virtual chapel, she says, “was an attempt to let the children know how much Jesus loved them and that they were never alone.”
As she pondered the concept of heroes, Miller realized Dr. Fauci was a “major essential worker” based nearby. “I was thinking he had not had an opportunity to talk with young children about COVID,” she says, “so we contacted him”—and he accepted.
Miller asked Fauci to explain the coronavirus, why people are wearing masks and staying socially distanced, whether pets can get COVID-19, and how he became a doctor and scientist. She described her guest as “very warm and gracious” and appreciated his age-appropriate responses. “It’s so important to share honest information with children and make sure they know how loved they are and respected as well,” says the pastor.
Dr. Anthony Fauci Calls Kids ‘part of the big team’
Fauci, 79, told young listeners they play a key role during this pandemic. “Children are going to be an important part of how we protect each other,” he said. “So when you hear [about]…the importance of washing your hands or even wearing a mask sometimes, the reason is, we want to protect you and we want you to be part of the protecting of everybody else. So it’s kind of taking care of each other.”
Masks can be awkward and even uncomfortable, Fauci admits, but they keep viruses from coming out of people’s mouths when they talk and sing. “Remember,” said the doctor, “you’re doing it for a good reason: Because you want to be part of the big team that’s going to get rid of this coronavirus so we don’t have to worry about this anymore.”
The quickest way to reach that goal, Fauci said, is to listen and stay safe. “Don’t think, children, that this is going to be the way it is forever,” he added. “Don’t get discouraged. This is only temporary.”
Pastor Miller closed by telling Fauci he’s “a gift” and by praying for him—and for everyone who has the virus. The doctor, she told a reporter, is “a person of great integrity and excellence who cares for all of us.”
Fauci, who has served under six presidents, says he attempts to remain politically neutral. But as battle lines have been drawn around COVID-19, his work and messaging have come under attack. On 60 Minutes last Sunday, Fauci described needing security because of death threats.
President Trump recently called Fauci “a disaster.” Yet poll respondents consistently rank the doctor as more trustworthy than the president as a reliable source of pandemic-related information.