Dr. Anthony Fauci has played a role in the president’s decision to extend social distancing to combat the new coronavirus.



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Dr. Anthony Fauci, a member of the White House coronavirus task force who has faced threats, has been given a security detail, according to an official familiar with the matter.

A request for nine special agents was approved by the Justice Department following a recommendation from the U.S. Marshals Service, the official said. Some Trump-administration officials had become concerned about Dr. Fauci’s safety, according to a person familiar with the decision.

The special agents are from the inspector general’s office of the Department of Health and Human Services. The Washington Post earlier reported the security detail.

Dr. Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, has played a role in shaping President Trump’s decision to extend social distancing through April to combat the new coronavirus. He has publicly corrected the president and said last week that “the virus sets the timeline” after Mr. Trump initially aimed to restart the economy by April 12.

But Dr. Fauci has become polarizing in a politically divided country with right-wing conspiracy theorists attacking him online, calling him part of a “deep state” plot to undermine the president’s re-election. Some dismiss the virus as a hoax and say Dr. Fauci is hyping possible outcomes.

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He has also become a celebrity of sorts, with restaurants and bakeries in New York selling Fauci doughnuts and pasta dishes.

Dr. Fauci has repeatedly stressed that decisions must be made based on available science and data, and has called for social distancing to slow the spread of infection and relieve burdens on hospitals. But some conservatives and business groups have said the economic fallout could be just as devastating as job losses mount and the stock market tumbles.

Mr. Trump recently said the U.S. can expect to see 100,000 to 240,000 deaths in coming weeks from the novel coronavirus after earlier playing down the virus and comparing it with the flu. Some critics of Dr. Fauci say he is being too pessimistic in his projections. Leading public-health experts have backed him and said there are signs that social distancing is working in reducing infections in some parts of the world and country.

Write to Stephanie Armour at stephanie.armour@wsj.com and Sadie Gurman at sadie.gurman@wsj.com

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