November 2, 2020 -- As the number coronavirus cases continues to break records, the U.S. is heading into a bleak winter with little strategy for controlling the spread of the virus, Anthony Fauci, MD, told the The Washington Post in a wide-ranging interview.
Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told the newspaper that the U.S. needs to make an “abrupt change” in public health practices around COVID-19.
“We’re in for a whole lot of hurt. It’s not a good situation,” Fauci said. “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.”
The U.S. could soon surpass 100,000 new COVID-19 cases a day, he said, and the number of deaths will likely increase in upcoming weeks. On Friday, the country reported more than 98,000 cases.
Fauci said the White House coronavirus task force meets less often now and that he hasn’t spoken with President Donald Trump since early October. He and Deborah Birx, MD, the task force coordinator, don’t have regular access to Trump anymore. Fauci said that he calls into meetings but avoids the West Wing because “of all the infections there,” he told the newspaper.
Scott Atlas, who has advocated allowing the coronavirus to spread among young people to create a “herd immunity,” has become Trump’s favorite pandemic adviser, Fauci said, and is the only medical adviser that Trump meets with regularly.
“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 things that when you dissect it out and parse it out, it doesn’t make any sense.”
Fauci added that he appreciated the comments that Mark Meadows, Trump’s chief of staff, said on CNN last weekend about the Trump administration no longer attempting to control the pandemic.
“I tip my hat to him for admitting the strategy,” Fauci said. “He is straightforward in telling you what’s on his mind.”
The White House heavily criticized Fauci’s comments, calling it “unacceptable and breaking with all norms” to give such an interview a few days before Election Day, Nov. 3.
“As a member of the Task Force, Dr. Fauci has a duty to express concerns or push for a change in strategy, but he’s not done that, instead choosing to criticize the President in the media and make his political leanings known by praising the President’s opponent — exactly what the American people have come to expect from The Swamp,” Judd Deere, a White House spokesman, told the newspaper in a statement on Saturday.
Deere added that Trump “always put the well-being of the American people first.”
Fauci said he’s worried about the cold months ahead, which could mark the toughest stretch of the pandemic. He’s focused on spreading precautionary public health messages in interviews while Birx travels the country to meet with local officials. Among their messages, Fauci said, is that herd immunity isn’t the answer. Even if people recover from the virus, they may have chronic health problems, he added
“The idea of this false narrative that if you don’t die, everything is hunky dory is just not the case,” he said. “But to say, ‘Let people get infected, it doesn’t matter, just make sure people don’t die’ — to me as a person who’s been practicing medicine for 50 years, it doesn’t make any sense at all.”