Dr Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, has not briefed President Donald Trump in the past two months about the coronavirus pandemic, as cases surge in parts of the US.
Early on in the pandemic, the president would meet with Dr Fauci and the White House Coronavirus Task Force multiple times per week.
The task force also held daily press briefings in March and April, which Mr Trump would often attend, before abruptly ending them.
But in an interview with the Financial Times, Dr Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said his communications with the president have since drifted off.
He last met in-person with Mr Trump on 2 June. Additionally, Dr Fauci said it’s been at least two months since he briefed the president, but he’s “sure” his messages are being passed on.
Distance between the president and his top infectious disease expert could be due to Dr Fauci’s outspokenness about the seriousness of the pandemic and how it very much still remains a problem across the country.
Dr Fauci was asked about Mr Trump’s recent false claim that 99 per cent of COVID-19 cases are harmless, which he then debunked.
“I’m trying to figure out where the president got that number,” Dr Fauci said. “What I think happened is that someone told him that the general mortality is about 1 per cent. And he interpreted, therefore, that 99 per cent is not a problem, when that’s obviously not the case.”
He added the confusion about the virus across the country could be because of how broadly it affects people – with some completely asymptomatic while others are severely ill in the hospital.
“I have never seen a virus or any pathogen that has such a broad range of manifestations,” he said. “Even if it doesn’t kill you, even if it doesn’t put you in the hospital, it can make you seriously ill.”
Reports surfaced recently about the White House attempting to prevent Dr Fauci from speaking in television interviews as of late. The expert credited that to his “reputation”.
“I have a reputation, as you probably have figured out, of speaking the truth at all times and not sugar-coating things. And that maybe one of the reasons why I haven’t been on television very much lately,” he said.
States like Arizona, California, Texas, and Florida have reported an increase of cases and hospitalisations in recent weeks.
What concerned Dr Fauci, though, was the potential slope of the curve if the trend continued.