Fauci: NIH in a “scramble” to prepare for any gov’t shutdown


WASHINGTON (AP) — A government shutdown would be disruptive to research and morale at the National Institutes of Health but would not adversely affect patients already in medical studies, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the agency’s infectious disease chief said Thursday.

“We still take care of them,” he said of current NIH patients, even if President Donald Trump and Congress don’t reach a budget deal and the government shuts down after midnight Friday. But other types of research would be seriously harmed, Fauci added in an interview with The Associated Press.

“It’s a scramble to address the possibility,” Fauci said.

Like other federal agencies, NIH must determine who is an “essential” employee and who is not — who would report to work if there is a partial shutdown and who would be barred. At the institutes, a shutdown could mean interrupting some research that’s been going on for years, Fauci said. The NIH is the government’s primary agency responsible for biomedical and public health research across 27 institutes and centers. Its research ranges from cancer studies to the testing and creation of vaccines.

“You can’t push the pause button on an experiment,” he said.

Trump on Thursday said a shutdown “could happen” but he doesn’t want to see it. Trump injected confusion into the process early in the day with a tweet that a children’s health insurance program should not be part of a short-term budget agreement.

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