Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and a member of the White House’s coronavirus task force, revealed this week that he has not briefed President Donald Trump on the spread of the disease in nearly two months.
Fauci made the revelation in an interview with The Financial Times, adding that he has not seen Trump in person at the White House since June 2.
The statement from Fauci is alarming, given that he’s considered the nation’s top expert on infectious diseases and that coronavirus continues to rampantly spread across the United States.
In spite of not speaking directly with the president for quite some time, Fauci said he believes his warnings and opinions on the disease are reaching Trump. Still, during the interview he also expressed misgivings about some of the president’s recent statements, particularly one in which he said that 99 percent of coronavirus cases are “harmless.”
“I’m trying to figure out where the president got that number,” Fauci said. “What I think happened is that someone told him that the general mortality is about 1 percent. And he interpreted, therefore, that 99 percent is not a problem, when that’s obviously not the case.”
Earlier this week in a different interview, Fauci described Trump’s focus on waning death numbers from coronavirus as a “false narrative to take comfort in,” adding, “there’s so many other things that are very dangerous and bad about this virus.” Indeed, even patients showing no signs of symptoms can have neurological or respiratory damage as a result of the disease, studies have found.
Others have disputed Trump’s “99 percent” comment, too. Figures from Johns Hopkins University, for instance, suggest that the fatality rate from COVID-19 of about 4.3 percent, not 1 percent as the president has implied, though those numbers could change as more is learned about the disease. The university estimates around 44,000 individuals around the country are currently hospitalized due to coronavirus.
As of 12 p.m. Eastern Time on Friday, there have been more than 3.1 million diagnosable cases of COVID-19 in the U.S., with 133,420 having died from the disease.
For his own part, during an interview with Fox News’ Sean Hannity on Thursday, Trump took direct aim at Fauci, suggesting that he has made “a lot of mistakes” during the crisis. He specifically cited the initial call for Americans not to wear masks or facial coverings from Fauci and other experts in his complaints.
“A lot of them said don’t wear a mask, don’t wear a mask. Now they are saying wear a mask. A lot of mistakes were made, a lot of mistakes,” Trump said on the program.
In mid-June, however, Fauci addressed that point, saying that decision was made by experts and the Trump administration in order to ensure healthcare workers had adequate access to supplies in the early weeks of the crisis.
“We wanted to make sure that the people, namely the health care workers, who were brave enough to put themselves in a harm way, to take care of people who you know were infected with the coronavirus and the danger of them getting infected,” had the masks, Fauci explained last month.
Trump himself did not acknowledge on Thursday any of the mistakes he has made during the pandemic’s spread in the U.S., including his refusal to take seriously the disease in February and early March, oftentimes ignoring the advice of health experts that surrounded him in the White House at the time.