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Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

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Data: Newswhip; Chart: Naema Ahmed/Axios

If you feel like you're suddenly spending a surprising amount of your days thinking and talking about Anthony Fauci, you're not alone. He's become the third-most talked about person online, according to data from NewsWhip provided to Axios.

Why it matters: Fauci, the director of the National Institutes of Health office that deals with infectious diseases, has quickly become a household name, and one of the few household names with (mostly) bipartisan credibility.

By the numbers: A Fox News poll last week shows Fauci has a 77% approval rating — well above any figure in the U.S. government.

  • According to our NewsWhip data, President Trump and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi were the only people with more online mentions than Fauci over the last two weeks.

What they're saying: Of the top 40 stories about Fauci by interactions (likes, comments, shares) on social media, none had negative sentiment, and several were positively glowing. Those stories included:

  • "Dr. Anthony Fauci and Gov. Andrew Cuomo are the most trusted leaders in America on the coronavirus right now. Trump is not." (Business Insider)
  • "Thank God the Doctor Is In" (Maureen Dowd in the New York Times)
  • "Can we have daily briefings with just Trevor Noah, Dr. Fauci, and no one else? Please?" (Upworthy)

Between the lines: Fauci has been able to strike a rare balance that has mostly avoided alienating either side of the political aisle during the coronavirus crisis.

  • On sites with left-leaning audiences, the top Fauci-related stories focused on instances when he contradicted President Trump or gave more pessimistic forecasts than the president.
  • Right-leaning publishers' top stories have been about Fauci criticizing the press for seeking to create a rift between him and the president, and instances of praise for Trump.

Yes, but: The internet is still the internet. Fauci recently received a security detail, in response to "threats as well as unwelcome communications from fervent admirers," per the Washington Post.

  • Still, although some far-right commentators have worked to build distrust against Fauci, more Republicans approve of Fauci (85%) than Democrats (74%), per the Fox News poll.

The bottom line: In these polarized times, few people are trusted across the political spectrum — particularly when they’re standing behind a podium at the White House. Fauci has proven to be the exception.

Subscribe to Mike Allen's Axios AM to follow our coronavirus coverage each morning from your inbox.

Go deeper

30 mins ago - Health

DeSantis to bar Florida schools from mandating masks

Photo: Michael Reaves via Getty Images

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) said Friday he will issue an executive order "very soon" barring local school districts from requiring students to wear masks when they return to school next month, NBC News reports.

Why it matters: The spread of the Delta variant has led to a spike in new infections across the U.S., triggering another round of debate about COVID guidelines in schools.

Trump's tax returns must be released to Congress, DOJ says

President Trump at the end of a rally to support Republican Senate candidates at Valdosta Regional Airport in Valdosta, Georgia on December 5, 2020. Photo: Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/AFP

The Treasury Department "must" release former President Trump's tax returns to the House Ways and Means Committee, the Department of Justice said in a memo Friday.

The big picture: The DOJ memo comes after a long dispute between the committee, which first sought to obtain the former president's returns two years ago, and Trump, who fought to keep his finances private.

CDC: Delta variant may cause mild COVID among fully vaccinated people

A storefront sign in Los Angeles reminds people masks are for everyone. Photo: Frederic J. Brown/AFP via Getty Images

About 74% of 469 COVID-19 cases associated with large gatherings held in Barnstable County, Mass., from July 3 to 17 were among fully vaccinated people, according to data released Friday from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Why it matters: The data bolsters emerging evidence that vaccinated people have high viral loads and may transmit the Delta variant as easily as those who are unvaccinated.