Fauci says his contact with Trump has 'dramatically decreased'
Anthony Fauci, the government’s top public health expert and a member of the national coronavirus taskforce, said on Monday that he was no longer in frequent contact with Donald Trump, which is likely to spark fresh fears that he is being frozen out of the White House.
The pandemic continues to ravage communities across the United States, where the death toll on Monday had reached 105,000, and last month Fauci warned the US Congress during a hearing that the virus was not yet under control.
Asked on Monday whether the president talked to him often about Covid-19 vaccine work, he told a reporter with Stat News, “No ... As you probably noticed, the taskforce meetings have not occurred as often lately. And certainly my meetings with the president have been dramatically decreased.”
Fauci noted that they used to have taskforce meetings daily, including on the weekend, and said that frequently, the two would talk after the meetings, estimating that a month ago, they met four times a week.
The director of the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases also told a CNN reporter that he had not spoken or met with Trump in two weeks and that their last interaction was on 18 May, during a teleconference with governors.
Fauci has repeatedly warned against a rush to reopen America for business and social movement until federal guidelines have been met involving a sustained decrease in new cases and adequate testing and hospital facilities being available.
He said last month: “There is a real risk that you will trigger an outbreak that you might not be able to control. Not only leading to some suffering and death, but it could even set you back on the road to get economic recovery.”
But the president, despite the federal guidelines, sharply and repeatedly diverged from his own leading expert and spent weeks urging state governors to reopen, while talking up the prospect of a vaccine at unprecedented speed and a swift economic recovery, both of which are far from solid prospects.
Trump has also been touting misinformation about treatments for coronavirus, promoting the malaria drug hydroxychloroquine as a miracle cure and then apparently taking it himself, despite pessimistic recent studies and federal regulators warning it could be dangerous when taken for, or as a prophylactic against, Covid-19, outside of a clinical trial.
Fauci tried tactfully to dampen the president’s hype of hydroxychloroquine and the antiviral drug chloroquine.
The White House and Trump himself had previously dismissed questions about tension between the president and Fauci as “media chatter”. After conservative commentators urged his firing, the White House said: “President Trump is not firing Dr Fauci.”
A drumbeat of calls for Fauci to be ousted have been promoted most aggressively by pro-Trump zealots in the far-right media ecosystem – political bomb-throwers, medical quacks and an unknown number of foreign bots posing as American internet users.
When the taskforce was still holding daily press briefings, televised live, at the White House, Trump said of Fauci: “Today I walk in, I hear I’m going to fire him. I’m not firing him. I think he is a wonderful guy.”
Trump held two-plus-hour briefings that veered far from their original purpose as a public information platform at the height of the coronavirus crisis in April. They petered out after he pondered dangerously whether taking disinfectant internally could be a possible treatment for coronavirus.
Fauci has done fewer interviews lately, despite warning that while efforts to contain the virus were “going in the right direction”, it did “not mean by any means that we have it under control”.Now there are worries that protests across the country, after police in Minneapolis killed George Floyd last week, will spread more coronavirus – while America’s top public health expert is pushed to the margins.