During an interview on Sunday evening on CBS’s “60 Minutes” program, Anthony Fauci, a member of the White House’s coronavirus task force and the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, explained that President Donald Trump’s aversion to wearing a mask is based on the desire to be perceived as strong.
Fauci was at times defensive of the president’s attitudes, saying his position on masks in general was “less an anti-science” viewpoint and “more a statement” he was attempting to convey to the American people.
“You know, a statement of strength,” Fauci said. “Like, ‘We’re strong. We don’t need a mask.’ That kind of thing. He sometimes equates wearing a mask with weakness.”
In spite of trying to defend or at least explain Trump’s attitudes toward masks, which are largely seen by medical experts as the best way to prevent the spread of coronavirus if social distancing isn’t possible, Fauci said he disagreed with the president’s point of view on the matter.
“No, it doesn’t” portray strength to not wear a mask, Fauci said. “Of course not.”
Fauci’s defenses of Trump, however, were contradicted by the president himself over the weekend. During a campaign rally in Nevada on Sunday, Trump attempted to demean his Democratic opponent, Joe Biden, by suggesting Biden would hurt the economy by heeding the advice of scientists more than Trump would.
“He’ll listen to the scientists,” Trump said of Biden in a mocking tone during a campaign rally in Nevada on Sunday.
While Fauci is a member of Trump’s coronavirus task force, the president tends to gravitate toward those within that group who hold the minority opinion on the subject of masks. During his town hall event last week with NBC’s Savannah Guthrie, Trump cited his adviser, Scott Atlas, a member of the task force who refuses to wear a mask and holds controversial views on herd immunity.
“You have, on the masks, you have two stories. You have a story where they want, a story where they don’t want,” Trump said to Guthrie in their conversation on wearing masks.
“All of your public health officials, your administration, they’re in unison about this,” Guthrie responded.
“Some. No … Scott Atkins, if you look at Scott, Dr. Scott,” Trump retorted, getting Atlas’s last name wrong. “He’s from, great guy, Stanford. He will tell you that, he disagrees with you.”
“He’s not an infectious disease expert,” Guthrie pointed out, noting that Atlas is a neuroradiologist, a specialist who deals with diagnosing health issues related to the brain, spine, head and neck, and not an epidemiologist.
Atlas himself attempted to disseminate errant information about masks over the weekend, tweeting on Saturday that he didn’t believe in their efficacy to prevent the spread of coronavirus. Twitter deleted his tweets, stating that the posts had violated their rules on sharing false and dangerous misinformation on COVID-19.
The overwhelming body of evidence suggests that wearing a mask vastly reduces the possibility of spreading coronavirus when social distancing isn’t possible. Indeed, according to research from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington School of Medicine, there would be around 79,000 fewer deaths between now and February 1 if 95 percent of the population regularly wore a mask in public.