Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, said Thursday that the country was not doing well as cases of the coronavirus continue to surge nationwide, and he placed some of the blame on a divisive culture that has politicized efforts to fight the pandemic.
Fauci made the comments on FiveThirtyEight’s “Podcast-19” as a surge in cases has spread across many states, some of which are setting daily records for new infections and warning of rapidly filling hospital beds. At the same time, calls for Americans to wear face masks and avoid large crowds have remained highly controversial in some places, setting off heated confrontations even as some leaders have conceded they may have reopened their states too soon.
“You have to be having blindfolders on and covering your ears to think that we don’t live in a very divisive society now, from a political standpoint,” Fauci said. “I mean, it’s just unfortunate, but it is what it is. … So I think you’d have to make the assumption that if there wasn’t such divisiveness, that we would have a more coordinated approach.”
Fauci has regularly pushed back against President Donald Trump’s statements minimizing the effects of the pandemic. On Thursday, the doctor told The Hill that states seeing a resurgence in cases should pause their reopening plans.
“Let me say there are parts of the United States … that are doing really well, that you’ve been through something really bad and you have things under control,” Fauci said on the podcast. “But as a country, when you compare us to other countries, I don’t think you can say we’re doing great. I mean, we’re just not.”
Trump, however, has regularly claimed that the U.S. has more cases only because of increased testing (which is not true) and said this week that the country was in a “good place.”
“I disagree with him,” Trump said Tuesday in a Gray Television interview with Greta Van Susteren. “You know, Dr. Fauci said, ‘Don’t wear masks,’ and now he says wear them. And you know, he’s said numerous things, ‘Don’t close off China. Don’t ban China.’ And I did it anyway. I sort of didn’t listen to my experts, and I banned China.”
He later told Van Susteren that in a few weeks, “I think we’re going to be in very good shape.”
Cases across the country continue to rise. More than 3.1 million people have tested positive for the virus and at least 133,000 have died. The U.S. has also hit single-day records for new cases six times in the last 10 days. On Thursday, more than 59,460 people tested positive for COVID-19.
Fauci told FiveThirtyEight on Thursday that he was skeptical of claims the virus would simply go away on its own — a line Trump has repeated without evidence — noting society would likely not get back to normal without an effective vaccine.
“This virus, to our dismay, is spectacularly efficient in transmitting from person to person,” Fauci said. “So that makes me skeptical whether we would get permanent, sustained control of this without having a vaccine.”
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