President Trump and Dr. Anthony Fauci in March (Photo by Jabin Botsford, The Washington Post)
The nation’s top infectious-disease expert and a man who ran the Food and Drug Administration for President Trump are openly taking issue with his handling of the pandemic.
Dr. Anthony Fauci and other health experts told The Washington Post that the White House and its virus task force have concentrated on production of a vaccine and not on encouraging practices that limit the spread of the virus.
“Right now, the public health aspect of the task force has diminished greatly,” said Fauci, director of the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases. At another point, he said, “We’re in for a whole lot of hurt. . . . All the stars are aligned in the wrong place as you go into the fall and winter season, with people congregating at home indoors. You could not possibly be positioned more poorly.”
In the interview with Josh Dawsey and Yasmeen Abutaleb, Fauci “also lamented that Scott Atlas, a neuroradiologist and Trump’s favored pandemic adviser, who advocates letting the virus spread among young healthy people and reopening the country without restrictions, is the only medical adviser the president regularly meets with,” they write.
“I have real problems with that guy,” Fauci said. “He’s a smart guy who’s talking about things that I believe he doesn’t have any real insight or knowledge or experience in. He keeps talking about that when you dissect it out and parse it out, it doesn’t make any sense.”
Fauci said he appreciated White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows saying last weekend that the pandemic was not going to be controlled. “I tip my hat to him for admitting the strategy,” he said. “He is straightforward in telling you what’s on his mind. I commend him for that.”
Fauci said Democrat Joe Biden’s campaign “is taking it seriously from a public health perspective,” while Trump is “looking at it from a different perspective . . .the economy and reopening the country.”
White House spokesman Judd Deere told the Post, “It’s unacceptable and breaking with all norms for Dr. Fauci . . . to choose three days before an election to play politics,” Deere said.
Sunday night, at Trump’s Sunday night campaign rally in Florida, chants of “Fire Fauci” broke out, The Washington Post reports. Trump replied, “Don’t tell anybody, but let me wait until a little bit after the election.” Politico notes, “While Fauci has civil service protections that would prevent his abrupt firing, Trump has pushed to weaken those protections across government.”
Meanwhile, Dr. Scott Gottlieb, a former FDA commissioner, said on CBS’s “Face the Nation” that Trump is wrong to say that the country is “rounding the corner” on the pandemic,
“No, things are getting worse around the country,” Gottlieb said. “I think the facts are going to overtake any political dialogue rather quickly . . . We’re gonna have to start taking some tough steps.” But he said that would not be state-level lockdowns because “I don’t think the political support is there for it, even at the state level.”
Gottlieb said “Thanksgiving will be the inflection point” and predicted, “The hospital systems are going to become pressed again. . . . December is probably going to be our toughest month.” By that time, the presidential election will likely have been decided, and Gottlieb alluded to the role that Trump could play.
“The bully pulpit is very important, the national leadership, trying to galvanize collective action,” he said.
Gottlieb said Trump was also wrong to say that “Our doctors get more money if someone does from covid.” He said the CARES Act has a 20 percent bonus for documented covid pneumonia because hospitals were “bleeding money” when Congress passed the law in May.