Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, said he was “absolutely” not surprised when President Donald Trump tested positive for COVID-19 earlier this month after he spent months ignoring and even mocking social distancing guidelines meant to minimize the spread of the deadly virus.
“I was worried that he was going to get sick when I saw him in a completely precarious situation of crowded, no separation between people, and almost nobody wearing a mask,” Fauci said in a lengthy interview with “60 Minutes” that aired Sunday. “When I saw that on TV, I said ‘Oh my goodness, nothing good can come out of that, that’s gotta be a problem.’”
“And then sure enough,” he continued, “it turned out to be a super-spreader event.”
Fauci was speaking of the president’s ceremony to celebrate the nomination of Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court in the White House Rose Garden. While the event was held outdoors, few precautions advised by the nation’s top doctors were followed and the president hosted a smaller event indoors shortly afterward. At least three dozen people at the event and in the White House have since tested positive for COVID-19, including first lady Melania Trump, the president’s son, Barron Trump, and a coterie of aides, senators and journalists.
More than 219,000 people have died from the coronavirus in the U.S. and more than 8.1 million people have been infected. Cases in America are surging to a third peak, and there were more than 70,000 new cases in one day for the first time since July this week.
Fauci also spoke about his shift on mask-wearing from the early days of the pandemic, which has become a common line of attack from top Republicans and even Trump himself. He said that advice was initially grounded in concern that there wouldn’t be enough masks for frontline workers, but when researchers determined that simple homemade cloth masks worked, his advice changed.
“When you find out you’re wrong, it’s a manifestation of your honesty to say, ‘hey I was wrong,’” Fauci said.
The doctor went on to note that he believed Trump trusted science even as the president largely rejected the use of masks himself.
“I think it’s fortunate that the president of the United States benefited from science,” the doctor said. “You know, I think deep down he believes in science, if he didn’t he would not have entrusted his health to the very competent physicians at the Walter Reed military medical center.”
“I think that’s less anti-science, than it’s more a statement,” Fauci continued about Trump’s refusal to wear a mask. “A statement of strength, like we’re strong, we don’t need a mask. That kind of thing. He sometimes equates wearing a mask with weakness.”
When asked if such a sentiment made sense, Fauci had a terse reply:
“No, it doesn’t,” he said. “Of course not.”
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