With a resurgence of coronavirus cases in the U.S. and states pausing their reopening plans, President Trump pointed a finger at Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases for three decades and one of the leading experts on pandemics in the U.S. for four decades.
“Dr. Fauci's a nice man, but he’s made a lot of mistakes,” Trump said on Sean Hannity’s Fox News show. “Like you don’t have to ban them coming in from very infected China. I did it anyway and we saved hundreds of thousands of lives. I banned Europe from coming in when Italy and France and Spain were having all the problems.”
“ ‘They’ve been wrong about a lot things, including face masks.’ ”
“They’ve been wrong about a lot things, including face masks,” Trump added. “Maybe they’re wrong, maybe not, but a lot of them said don’t wear a mask, don’t wear a mask. Now they are saying wear a mask. So a lot of mistakes were made — a lot of mistakes.”
The president has rarely worn a mask in public and has not said Americans should wear masks.
On April 13, Fauci said he made recommendations to Trump to restrict travel. “The travel was another recommendation, when we went in and said, ‘We probably should be doing that.’ And the answer was yes. And then another time was, ‘We should do it with Europe,’ and the answer was yes. And the next time, ‘We should do it with the U.K.,’ and the answer was yes.”
Trump has previously been circumspect on masks. On April 3, the administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reversed their policies on masks, and said everyone — not just medical workers, as they previously said — should wear face coverings. Trump cited “recent studies” of asymptomatic transmission for the U-turn, while the CDC cited “new evidence.”
That same day, Trump said his administration recommended wearing cloth face coverings. However, he said he wouldn’t wear a mask himself. “From recent studies, we know that the transmission from individuals without symptoms is playing a more significant role in the spread of the virus than previously understood,” he said. “You don’t have to do it. I’m choosing not to do it.”
Fauci told the Financial Times that he has not briefed the president since June 2.
“ ‘You don’t have to do it. I’m choosing not to do it.’ ”
On April 15, New York Gov. Cuomo issued an executive order requiring New Yorkers to wear masks in public. “Put the mask on when you are not in socially distant places,” he said. “It is your right to go out for a walk in the park, go out for a walk because you need to get out of the house. Fine, don’t infect me. You don’t have a right to infect me.”
Fauci said last week that the U.S. government had not been doing well with contact tracing, the process of tracing people who have been in contact with someone identified to have the virus, instructing them to stay home, and connecting them with the resources they need to do so. “I don’t think we’re doing very well, for a number of reasons, and not all of which is the fault of the system,” he said in an interview last month with CNN’s T, +1.99% Elizabeth Cohen.
Studies have concluded that face masks have helped reduce contagion by reducing droplets being sprayed into the air during flu season; another Japanese-based study says this works when paired with vaccination. It may be that they work in a small amount of cases and/or just wearing them helps to promote healthy behaviors.
Scientists writing in The New England Journal of Medicine found that the novel coronavirus was detectable in the air for up to three hours, up to four hours on copper, up to 24 hours on cardboard, and up to two to three days on plastic and stainless steel. Above all else, health professionals recommend washing hands, cleaning surfaces and social distancing in public spaces.
The rift between Fauci and Trump widened against a backdrop of rising cases. Last Tuesday, in an interview livestreamed on Twitter TWTR, -0.89% and Facebook FB, +0.23% with the head of the National Institutes of Health, Francis Collins, Fauci said that unlike Europe, U.S. communities “never came down to baseline and now are surging back up” and “we’re still knee-deep in the first wave.”
Fauci previously said the virus may be mutating to become more transmissible, and focused on three main failings by both the public and authorities: Many states have reopened too quickly, people are not abiding by rules of social distancing, and the authorities could do a better job at contact tracing to track people who’ve been in contact with those who test positive.
COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus SARS-CoV-2, had infected 12.4 million people globally and over 3.2 million in the U.S. as of Friday, according to official figures collated by Johns Hopkins University’s Center for Systems Science and Engineering. The disease had claimed at least 557,279 lives worldwide and 133,885 in the U.S.
Fauci said this month that America needs to balance the needs of the nation’s economic and public health; he said people need to practice social distancing and wear face masks. “We do need to open up again, no doubt about it, we want to get the economy back,” he said. “But you’ve got to do it in a measured way, and now we’re seeing the consequence of community spread.”
How COVID-19 is transmitted